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  #1  
Old 06-11-2010, 08:12 PM
Simon Wood Simon Wood is offline
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Default The Secret Special Branch Ledgers

Hi All,

By way of introduction—

"Since Bernard Porter’s book "The Origins of the Vigilant State" was published in 1987 the U.K.’s ‘Open Government Initiative’ has led to the opening of some secret files relevant to the early history of the Special Branch – most notably the memoir of Superintendent William Melville.

"However, more than a century after the height of the anarchist scare, a substantial amount of documentation concerning it is still held by the Special Branch and classified as secret. A serving officer in today’s Special Branch, Lindsay Clutterbuck, has recently completed a Ph.D. thesis based in part on research in documents retained by the Branch and accessible to him only because of his status . . . This information would seem to contradict what police officials told Porter about the Branch’s records: ‘Scotland Yard . . . claims that all its Special Branch files were pulped to furnish recycled paper during the last war’ (The Origins of the Vigilant State, p. xi)."

E. Thomas Wood [July 2002]

What follows is covered by Section 21 paragraph 53 in a 29-page Freedom of Information Act 2000 [Section 50] Decision Notice dated 20th August 2008. It reads in part—

"To the limited extent that information from the Ledgers and the Register is cited in the [Clutterbuck] thesis and, where it is clear that they are from that source, the Commissioner is satisfied that that material is reasonably accessible to the complainant by other means. Therefore in relation to that material the exemption was appropriately claimed."

The new information discovered in 2000/1 by Lindsay Clutterbuck, then a serving Special Branch officer, is described thus:-

"Three 'Special Account' books, each measuring 160mm by 200mm, and printed into five columns per page. They detail, amongst other items, what appears to be the cash amounts paid out to individual informants. In all, approximately six thousand individual entries span a total of the twenty four years from 1888 to 1912.

"Book One is headed 'Special Account' and runs from February 1st 1888 to December 5th 1894.

"Book Two, with no heading, commences on December 12th 1894 and finishes on December 25th, 1901.

"Book Three, again with no heading, covers the years from January 1st 1902 to March 27th 1912.

"Whilst they do not provide any operational information directly appertaining to the policing of extreme Irish nationalism during the period of 1881-1885 when Irish activities were at a peak, they do give a unique insight into the workings of the MPSB [Metropolitan Police Special Branch] from shortly after its formal inception in February, 1887 (Metropolitan Police Orders, February 3rd, 1887) until well beyond the turn of the century. It is likely that there had been substantial change in the years leading up to the period covered by the first volume. They also show that, whatever the public protestations of senior police officers and politicians concerning their apparent distaste at the use of "spies", such individuals were actively recruited by the police who then paid them with the money provided for that purpose by the government.

"This published material ranges from the earliest examples in the 1798 rebellion, through to the Fenians of the 1860s and beyond into the 1880s. It identifies many people who acted as informants on behalf of the British government.

"As well as the Account Books, a further, larger book has come to light. It measures 20cm by 33cm and is headed 'Special Branch Records of Service- 27.11.86 to 2.1.1917'.

"It seems to have performed several functions related to personnel. The volume is divided into various sections. The first of these is extracts from Metropolitan Police Orders relating to the transfers into, within and out of Special Branch. This is invaluable as trying to reconstruct today such movements by relying on the Police Orders published at the time is virtually
impossible due to the difficulties in disentangling which CID postings actually referred to Special Branch. Another section refers to each individual officer's postings, transfers, promotion and retirement dates. The final part of the book details officers postings to coastal ports, both in Britain and abroad.

"The last book to be discovered is a bound ledger. It is a massive tome, measuring 27cms by 38cms by 6cms and weighing 4 kilograms. The front cover is embossed with the words "Crime Department Special Branch" and the first page bears a stamp "Criminal Investigation Dept. - Chief Constables Office - SPECIAL", with the hand written date of "20.4.88" inserted into its centre.

"It appears to serve several functions and each page is divided into four columns, each headed respectively: -

"Name (briefly) Subject Reference to Correspondence Folio in Correspondence Register

"At the rear of the book, two pages detail anonymous letters sent to the Branch. A further six pages contain references to extracts from the press, ranging from the radical to the establishment, both from within Great Britain and abroad. However, it is the remainder of the book that contains the most significant research material.

"It is organised into alphabetical cuts, with each letter further divided into sub-cuts headed A, E, I, O, U. At thirty five lines a page there is a minimum of one thousand entries per letter of the alphabet, plus "Mc" and the use of the spare capacity at the back for overflow. Very few pages are not filled completely, giving a total of up to thirty thousand, one line entries.

"A number in the "Reference to Correspondence" column, always in the format of a fraction [e.g. 3622/2], accompanies each one line entry. Another number, usually between one and four hundred e.g . 294 appears in the "Folio in Correspondence Register" column.

"Overall, the ledger appears designed to operate on three levels:-

"i) As a register of correspondence sent to Special Branch by the rest of the Metropolitan Police, other Police Forces, the Home Office, other government departments and members of the
public.

"ii) As an index to the reports submitted by its own officers.

"iii) As a nominal and subject index of people and topics mentioned at i) and ii) above.

"Specific dates are rarely given but by taking an archaeological approach to what entries lie before or after a dated entry, a rough estimate of the possible date of the others can sometimes be inferred."

And what of Jack the Ripper in all of this?

Clutterbuck states that "The Chief Constable's Register contains several intriguing references to at least support the contention that 'Special' had more that a passing interest in 'Jack the Ripper' but none to corroborate the particular suspect that they put forward."

Clutterbuck also cites John Mallon of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, whose comments appeared in "Irish Conspiracies", a book of his reminiscences written by journalist and writer Frederick Moir Bussey, published by Everett & Co, 1910.

Anderson's "most authoritative critic is probably Bussey (1910), who, using his association with Superintendent John Mallon of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, a man with first hand knowledge of many of the events, paints a picture of Anderson as a man who "talks a good job", irrespective of his personal involvement in it. Consequently, caution must be exercised in using Anderson as a source."

Although we shall never get to see the details contained in these ledgers, I hope the foregoing gives some idea of the lengths to which the authorities will go to preserve the secret history of the LVP.

Regards,

Simon
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  #2  
Old 06-11-2010, 09:32 PM
Phil Carter Phil Carter is offline
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Default Thank you Simon!

Hello Simon,

A brilliant and interesting summary. Dr. Lindsey Clutterbuck's references are indeed revealing and comprehensive, as you said, indicating the amount of secrecy.

I have been pushing for many a year about the BACKGROUND of the happenings in and around Whitechapel. Terrorism, Anarchy, Fenianism, Russian undercover agents, Ochrana,anti-Tsarism, Swiss and French counter espionage agents, The IWMEC, The Parnell stuff looming. American Irish sympathisers mixing in the undercurrent of it all, and the small matter of a few women being murdered...and all this going on with Anderson, Monro and Littlechild trying to control all the comings and goings of the police involved in every single one of these events, all at the same time.

When I first suggested, ages ago, that the raids on the individual homes of the people of Whitechapel were nothing to do with a game of "hunt the Ripper" as we were told by the police themselves, I can well remember the derision. Perhaps this summary of yours Simon, may help people to understand that Anderson did indeed have other agendae, that his "sick leave" to Switzerland and the return via Paris, had very little to do with the fresh mountain air of a holiday, or a trip to the zoo in Paris. I am indebted to you for posting this, as in Alex Butterworths brilliant and comprehensive book, "The World that Never Was" (2010) expands upon and looks at all the aspects of the above, he also having encountered the known problems with his research in the archives.

Thank you indeed for posting this. It is seriously important for people to understand the wider picture.

As for Anderson, that quote from Bussey in 1910 sums the man up perfectly."...caution must be excercised in using Anderson as a source".

Def ascertained fact indeed. A proveless, worthless comment said to lead people away from the real things going on in Whitechapel, Special Branch investigations about Jack the Ripper included.

People say the use of the word smokescreen is not applicable... yeah, right. The series of murders were almost background stuff compared to what was going down, hence the bringing in of specialised policemen familiar with anti-Fenianism, from Ireland included.

In my honest opinion, it is high time the focus shifted outwards.... Kosminsky? Druitt? Ostrog?... all thrown out to keep the masses quiet. And the press, or certain sections of it, were used all through the events of the Autumn of 1888. That is what counter espionage and secret undercover work is all about. Dazzle and confuse.

Many thanks for this summary. For it is the truth. Directly said, some should sit up and take notice of the events of the LVP....for the BACKGROUND is the key.

with best wishes

Phil
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Justice for the 96 = achieved
Accountability? ....

Last edited by Phil Carter : 06-11-2010 at 09:38 PM.
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  #3  
Old 06-11-2010, 10:12 PM
Natalie Severn Natalie Severn is offline
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Fascinating Simon-----thanks for sharing this.
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  #4  
Old 06-11-2010, 11:08 PM
Tom_Wescott Tom_Wescott is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Wood
Clutterbuck states that "The Chief Constable's Register contains several intriguing references to at least support the contention that 'Special' had more that a passing interest in 'Jack the Ripper' but none to corroborate the particular suspect that they put forward."
Excellent post, Simon. We need to contact Dr. Clutterbuck to get full info on the Jack the Ripper material here. A simple paragraph like this simply will not do.

Yours truly,

Tom Wescott
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  #5  
Old 06-12-2010, 12:26 AM
Trevor Marriott Trevor Marriott is online now
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You will have a job i am told he is dead
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  #6  
Old 06-12-2010, 12:32 AM
Tom_Wescott Tom_Wescott is offline
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That sucks! Maybe Phil has some ideas regarding finding his files and notes. Of course, if he could get in to see this stuff, I see no reason why I couldn't, or Debs, Rob, or whoever.

Yours truly,

Tom Wescott
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Old 06-12-2010, 10:40 PM
Chris Chris is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Wood View Post
What follows is covered by Section 21 paragraph 53 in a 29-page Freedom of Information Act 2000 [Section 50] Decision Notice dated 20th August 2008.
Thanks for a very interesting post.

If anyone wants a depressing read, the full text of the notice is available here:
http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documen...s_50106800.pdf

I am very puzzled by Trevor's post saying that the ledgers were subsequently made available in a heavily "redacted" form. It appears to me that the 2008 ruling required them to be made available with information removed only where it was reasonably accessible otherwise (i.e. through Clutterbuck's thesis). If they have removed all proper names, are they not in clear breach of the ruling?
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Old 06-12-2010, 11:58 PM
Archaic Archaic is offline
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Default Keep Digging

I agree with Chris, that the notice makes for strange reading. I went through it yesterday with a friend and was particularly struck by the claims of urgent "Health and Safety" concerns and the bizarre inclusion of "Fees" as another serious concern. The latter made me feel that they are scraping the bottom of the barrel for justifications to keep very old material secret, and the former just baffled me.

Section 38 – Health and safety


99. Information is exempt under this section if its disclosure would or would be likely to endanger the physical or mental health of any individual, or endanger the safety of any individual.


Who is going to have their mental health or physical safety endangered after 120 years???

This reason strikes me as preposterous. The only sense I can make of it is that is a roundabout way of claiming "official embarrassment"
(i.e. "Mental Health") as a reason to keep century-old information out of the public domain.

I say keep digging!

Best regards,
Archaic

Last edited by Archaic : 06-13-2010 at 12:00 AM.
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  #9  
Old 06-13-2010, 12:00 AM
Simon Wood Simon Wood is offline
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Hi Chris,

The Metropolitan Police Service probably is in breach of the ruling, but try telling them that.

Thank goodness the late Dr Clutterbuck left us a few juicy leads to follow up.

Regards,

Simon
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Old 06-13-2010, 12:43 AM
Trevor Marriott Trevor Marriott is online now
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Default redaction

With regards to the redaction. The met police have carried out the redaction in accordance with the tribunal ruling. i have already challenged this point.

The main argument I have put forward is the fact that the tribunal gave their judgment based mainly on what special branch officers told them.

They went to great lenghts to suggest the bulk of the information contained in these ledgers related to informants. Even examining the ledgers in redacted form clearly that is not correct. As an ex police officer i was quickly able to asses and evaluate the contents despite the heavy redaction. That is why I am able to make that statement.

As far as their argument and the reference to Clutterbcuks thesis which was then freely available is concerned the contents on this were played down. I have read the thesis and i am able to say that there are 80 pages in the thesis which contain extracts from the ledgers. Informants are named with details of what information they gave and how much they were paid as well as other references regarding the workings of special branch.

In view of this their argument about wanting to protect the name of informants is vrey weak.

As far as the Ripper is concerned as Clutterbuck states there are only minor references to the ripper documented. One has to remember his reserach was into the workings of Special Branch. He would not have been fully au fait with the Ripper mystery and the many names of persons connected to the mystery, and therefore i hope there will be other references to The Ripper found when I hopefully get to view them in unredcated form.
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