Four campaigners have lodged a complaint with an official watchdog, alleging that they felt intimidated by covert police officers who were trying to persuade them to spy on their political colleagues.

They say that coercive and at times repeated police approaches caused them to abandon their political campaigning, or left them stressed and paranoid.

They also say that the clandestine manoeuvres to spy on students, environmentalists, anti-fascists and other campaigners erode free speech and the freedom to protest.

One of the quartet, a 23-year-old single mother, said she stopped campaigning against racism after police threatened to prosecute her if she told anyone, including her mother, about the attempt to recruit her as an informer.

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