A secretive Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) unit used hackers to access the email passwords of environmental activists and journalists, according to an anonymous letter sent to the Green Party peer Jenny Jones.
Jones passed the letter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which is conducting a preliminary investigation.
The IPCC has already been investigating allegations that the national domestic extremism and disorder intelligence unit at the MPS had shredded documents in contravention of an instruction to preserve files for a judge-led inquiry into the policing of political groups.
According to the letter, a MPS police officer used a contact in the Indian police to hire hackers to obtain the passwords for the email accounts of the campaigners and journalists, passwords which were then used to regularly check their email.
As proof of the allegation, the letter writer included the passwords of ten named campaigners. According to The Guardian website, lawyers at Bindmans, who represent Jones, contacted six people on the list, five of whom confirmed that the supplied password matches the one they used to access their email and one who said it was nearly right. The remaining four have not been contacted.
The letter said: “For a number of years the unit had been illegally accessing the email accounts of activists. This has largely been accomplished because of the contact that one of the officers had developed with counterparts in India who in turn were using hackers to obtain email passwords.”
The anonymous writer said “over the years, the unit had evolved into an organisation that had little respect for the law, no regard for personal privacy, encouraged highly immoral activity and, I believe, is a disgrace”.
Jones said: “There is more than enough to justify a full-scale criminal investigation into the activities of these police officers and referral to a public inquiry. I have urged the Independent Police Complaints Commission to act quickly to secure further evidence and to find out how many people were victims of this nasty practice.”
The MPS said it was made aware of the anonymous allegations by the IPCC.