October 20, 2011

As Jim Sutton stood up in court he seemed to all the world a committed environmental campaigner. In the witness box, he affirmed under oath his name and address.

Still under oath, he then gave evidence, under questioning from barristers, seeking to clear himself and seven other campaigners accused of disorderly behaviour during a demonstration. He told the court he had wanted to unfurl a banner from the window of a government building to promote their cause.

But what the campaigners and lawyers at London’s Horseferry Road magistrates’ court that day could not have realised was that a fictitious man was being prosecuted. According to the solicitors who represented Sutton, the court was hearing evidence from a man who did not exist.

The quiet man purporting to be an ardent activist working as a cleaner was in reality an undercover police officer who had been infiltrating political movements for some time as part of a long-standing operation to garner intelligence on campaigners. His real name was Jim Boyling and he was employed by a covert Scotland Yard unit specialising in monitoring political activists.

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