High Court: Declaring undercover relationships a sexual offence would be a ‘substantial leap’ in definition of consent
A former police officer who had a six-month relationship with a female activist while working in a long-term undercover role will not face prosecution.
The woman, known only as Monica, had launched a High Court challenge against the decision not to prosecute Jim Boyling for rape, procurement and misconduct in public office over the relationship he had with her under his cover name Jim Sutton.
Boyling was a member of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Special Demonstration Squad which had a team of up to ten officers that infiltrated political groups in full-time undercover roles for many years at a time. He had infiltrated the environmental group Reclaim the Streets during the 1990s and is also alleged to have had sexual relationships with other women during his deployment.
Prosecutors decided not to charge him with sexual offences as they considered the relationship to be genuine and that his deception did not make her consent invalid.
Giving judgment in London on Friday (December 14), Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Mr Justice Jay ruled there was ‘no merit’ in Monica’s claim against the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The judges said Monica’s lawyers had contended for a ‘substantial leap’ in the definition of consent, and “it would be wrong for such a fundamental change in the understanding of consent to be brought about by judges rather than the legislature”.
The judges concluded the lawyer who reviewed the decision not to prosecute Mr Boyling in 2017 had made the correct decision. They added: “In our judgment, she was entitled to reach the conclusion that ‘consent’ could not be interpreted by a court in a way which undertook that leap applying, as she put it, ‘current legal principles’.”
In May, Mr Boyling was dismissed from the MPS following a complaint made by another woman, known as Rosa, whose relationship with Mr Boyling began in 1999.
He was sacked for gross misconduct for disclosing confidential information and trying to conceal his relationship with Rosa, whom he married and had two children with after leaving the SDS in the early 2000s.
At least 12 women have received compensation after being involved in intimate relationships with men and did not realise they were undercover officers. In 2015 the MPS admitted all such relationships were “abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong”.
A public inquiry into undercover policing in England and Wales, which was announced by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014, is ongoing and is not due to conclude until 2023.