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5 May, 122 tweets, 21 min read
The #SpyCopsInquiry is taking a short break. Next we'll be hearing from a non State core participant, Richard Chessum.
You can watch this morning's hearing at

The opening statement of Richard Chessum and 'Mary' is at…

This morning's session is being streamed with a ten-minute delay...

Mitting has reminded us that we must take care not to break this ten-minute rule with our tweets
Richard Chessum has provided the Inquiry with a written witness statement – see…
In his own words, “the overarching aim of his political activity over a lifetime has been to contribute to a better world.”
Richard was a lay preacher – he got involved in the Labour Party and in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
He moved to London in 1968 and got involved in the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) and then the Anti Apartheid Movement (AAM).
He joined in with a Stop The Seventy Tour (STST) action at Oval cricket ground – a pitch invasion carried out with the intent to creating an opportunity for dialogue with the South African players.
This was the all-white Wilf Isaacs team, who toured in 1969.
He wasn't a big rubgy fan, so can't remember as much about the protests vs the South African Springboks rugby team that he attended
He enrolled at Goldsmiths College in 1970 and because there was no Socialist Society, he set one up. He recalled the disillusionment with the Labour government of the time.
The Socialist Society held open weekly meetings, and advertised its activities to both students and staff. Among the people he recruited from his stall was the woman who later became his wife.
He also joined the Anti Internment League, and organised a demo after Bloody Sunday. He explained that he got more involved in the Irish situation due to an Irish house-mate at the time.
He told us about what internment meant – it was extremely repressive – he recounted that “one of the leaders of apartheid in South Africa said he would willingly swap all of his anti terrorist powers for one clause of the (UK's) Special Powers Act.”
He eventually joined the IMG in 1972, having deliberately avoided joining any of the left-wing groups that existed.
He left within a year – he preferred “to be on the open sea” rather than stuck in a small “political goldfish bowl”.
He thinks that Rick Gibson appeared shortly after the Birmingham pub bombings.

Chessum was ill for a period, but got involved in the Troops Out Movement (TOM) at around this time.
He says he felt very 'at home' within the Labour Committee on Ireland (LCI), and he became its Press Officer. He explained that his membership of the Labour Party lapsed when he moved to London – he rejoined long after being spied on by 'Gibson'.
Chessum is still politically active now, with a local group set up to assist asylum seekers and refugees. This group has fought against both destitution and racism; it now has over 300 volunteers and has become – in his words “a substantial presence in the city of Sheffield”
Chessum was elected to the Students Council at Goldsmiths.
He had been involved with the Anti Internment League (AIL) in the past, and supported the aims of the Troops Out Movement (TOM)
He explained how he came to meet 'Rick Gibson' and set up a branch of TOM with him and other students.
We saw a report [UCPI0000012122] of a meeting at Goldsmiths attended by 45 people, in January 1975 <for some reason this document is dated 1974>
The main speaker was a former paratrooper, McConnell.
Chessum is reported as proposing the formation of a SE London branch of TOM.
You can read it at…

Chesusm clearly remembers his first meeting with Gibson took place in the Student Union bar – and thinks this may have been in December.…

According to the next report [MPS-0728678] page 2 is of the inaugaral meeting of this new TOM branch
This was only attended by two people at the start – who were later joined by 3 IMG members (who turned up because their IMG class was cancelled that night – one of these was 'Mary')
He knows that Mary remembers meeting 'Gibson' for the first time at a political stall.

It was only after Chessum's involvement in student politics at Goldsmiths had ended that Mary stood as Left candidate for the presidency of the students union.

This report [MPS-0728205] is all about Richard Chessum, and includes a lot of detail about his life, his health and his involvement in TOM and other groups.

His sister's move to York is included.

His 1969 contribution to Black Dwarf magazine put him on Special Branch's radar.
He says he was concerned when he saw the bit about Black Dwarf – he couldn't remember what he'd said in the article – what if it was embarrassing?
He has now seen this article, which was printed as a letter – and does not see why this should have caused any concern or interest from Special Branch.
He does not recall any fly-posting incident at Oval and suspects this was the pitch invasion.
There is also a 'scuffle' mentioned. He remembers intervening in what he thought was a racist attack, and then finding out that the 'racist white men' were in fact plain-clothes policemen effecting an arrest.
He remembers the overt racism of the police at the time, and the language they used (the word 'coon' went uncorrected even by senior officers).
He confirmed that if he had known that Gibson was an undercover, he would not have set up a branch of TOM with him.
The next report MPS-0728701 was of a small speaker meeting at Goldsmiths. Gery Lawless had been invited to speak. Chessum explained that they were disappointed that some of the other left-wing groups around at the time didn't join in.
The next report [MPS-0728710] detailed a meeting attended by just 11 people, on 18th March 1975.
Elections were held, with Rick Gibson being elected as Secretary. It was also agreed that he and Chessum would be sent as delegates to the upcoming 'Liason Committee Conference' on 22nd March 1975.
Chessum explained that the role of secretary required the most work. It sounds like members of the group were probably relieved when 'Gibson' volunteered for this work. He had a car.
Chessum also recalled that many members of the Irish community didn't want to get involved in any political activity because of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Prospective group members would contact the Secretary in the first instance – and 'Gibson' obviously had access to every member's personal details.
Barr asked more about how TOM functioned. At first, the group met at Chessum's home. Later they met at Charlton House.
'Gibson' attended the group's meetings.
The group organised events like a picket outside the house of local MP (and Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) Roland Moyle. He recalls being invited in for tea and biscuits.

At the time he assumed these people were 'colleagues' of the MP; now he wonders if they were part of the State (as they did ask the group lots of questions about their personal political views).
HN297's report differs from Chessum's recollection , stating that Moyle was present that day but refused to speak to the demonstrators, suggesting that nobody was invited inside the house at all.
Chessum has a very strong recollection of this event, as they were so surprised at the time to be invited inside – there was about half a dozen activists who entered the house and were asked all these questions.
Barr asked if TOM was involved in any fly-posting, and if 'Gibson' took part in that?
We heard that he went out fly-posting with a comrade called Olivia. Chessum stayed at home with a bad migraine that evening, so didn't actually see the fly-posting happen.
We moved on to hear more about TOM's interactions with the local Trades Councils, in Lewisham and Greenwich. Many of the trade unionists were sympathetic.
More about the Troops Out Movement (TOM) while the Inquiry takes a short break...
The Troops Out Movement was formed in West London in September 1973 by Irish solidarity activists, trade unionists, socialists and Irish people living in Britain.

It was a campaigning organisation committed to bringing an end to British rule in the north of Ireland.
The movement had two stated aims.

First, it campaigned for the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.
Second, it campaigned for self-determination for the Irish people.

The movement also campaigned around related issued including justice, policing, equality, demilitarisation, employment discrimination, cultural rights and the Irish language.
We looked at page 3 of [MPS-0728681]…
A report of a meeting which took place at Charlton House on 21st May 1975 – this was a public meeting attended by about 45 people – the first held by this brach outside of Goldsmiths?
The report says it was a success because of “good local publicity” and noted the presence of IS and IMG members in the audience.
Credit for this publicity and outreach is given to Chessum and Gibson
(HN297 presumably wrote the report).
Barr said we are left with the impression that 'Gibson' put a lot of effort into getting people to come to this meeting, and when they did, he would report their attendance to Special Branch. Chessum agreed with this.

The next report [MPS-0728668] is of SEL TOM members attending a Labour Party meeting at Aldewood School, and questioning the Labour candidate about his views on the Irish situation.
Our objective would have been to try and persuade people in the Labour party to support us” explained Chessum. He denies that any public disorder took place.
Chessum spent time with 'Gibson' – for example, in the pub after meetings, and even attended a few football matches with him (at Gibson's suggestion).
He thought that they bonded over their distaste for sectarianism, and found it relaxing to discuss things freely with someone who wasn't a committed/ zealous member of any particular group.
What was his relationship with Gery Lawless like?
Chessum explained that he'd known Lawless for a while, which is why he invited him to speak at that meeting. Rick Gibson didn't know him before.
He recalled an “informal alliance” between Lawless and other 'independents' within TOM/ members of Big Flame. He says that sectarian groups (like Workers Fight and the RCG) were particularly disruptive.
He recalls that 'Gibson' tried to befriend everyone.

The next report [UCPI0000009306] is of a meeting of the Organising Committee, planning for a demo to mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
The meeting is described as 'bitterly divided' – there was a vote which passed by 3 votes to 2. Barr asked Chessum if he knows if Gibson influenced this vote?
He has no idea, but remembers concerns at the time about the IMG 'taking over' the campaign.

This report is about a meeting in central London to organise a Bloody Sunday commemmorative demonstration
It mentions John Lennon.

This second report [MPS -0728774] is from January 1974
Gery Lawless reported back to this meeting – that Eamon McCann and Bernadette McAliskey would probably speak at the forthcoming demo, but that John Lennon and others had declined.
Does Chessum know anything about Gibson's involvement in activists being removed from the national organisation? No, as he wasn't involved at a national level at all. But he is surprised at just how active Gibson was.
Hammersmith Palais had been booked for a rally on 1st February but this was cancelled. Chessum recounted how the police at the time went round public houses encouraging landlords not to allow political meetings on their premises.
There was more discussion about electing a press committee rather than a single press officer. Three people – incl 'Gibson' – were then elected to this new committee. The committee's first task was to prepare a statement on the State's repression.
Chessum is concerned that one of the #spycops got involved in this, as the welfare of the TOM clearly was not his priority.

Gibson went on to higher positions with Tom nationally. He was elected to the London Coordinating Committee (LCC), for example.
The next report [MPS-072855]…
shows that the size of this committee was expanded in September 1975 to allow Rick Gibson and another person [name redacted] to join it.
Chessum was approached himself about becoming a London organiser. He remembers that the SE London branch voted for two delegates for the coordinating committee and that he was beaten by Gibson in this election.

The LCC met at the University of London Union (ULU) in April 1976, and this next report [UCPI0000009684] detailed it.
An event was mentioned – a fringe meeting held in Blackpool – and there was some severe internal criticism of people.
'Rick Gibson' appears to be “in the thick of it” suggests Barr.
Chessum says it is obvious that he was trusted by Lawless and others, and “given a lot of responsibility”

Chessum explained more about the attacks – he understands that one of those attacked by Gibson was Sean Hammond McKavanagh and said that Gibson may have done this in order to “curry favour with Lawless.
Chessum recounted the reasons for his withdrawal – a personal story involving a woman comrade.
Other reports now published by the Inquiry include:…
Gibson's position in TOM meant that he would have had access to a great deal of information about the group's plans, about its members and about any legal advice they ever received (eg about the Hammersmith Palais cancellation).
Chessum confirmed that TOM did not carry out or promote illegal acts – they lobbied MPs to try to get them on side so very much “supported parliamentary democracy”
There was no direct relationship between TOM & the Provisional IRA (which was a highly secretive, private organisation). He suspects that this report [UCPI0000007665] was inaccurate; members of Tom may well have met with Sinn Fein, the political party, but not with the IRA.
Chessum described Big Flame.
He said it contained “lots of feminist women” and explained that they felt more comfortable in this less sectarian environment.
Chessum explained that he reacted vs the 'authoritarianism' of some groups on the left.
He joined Big Flame and some time after this, Rick Gibson asked if he could come along. As far as he is aware, Gibson never became a member.
He recalled one incident where Gibson was due to 'take a turn' addressing the group' but performed badly. He nowt thinks this should aybe have been an indication that Rick wasn't really a committed person”.
Some time after this, Chessum returned to London and found out what had happened when Gibson tried to join Big Flame. They suspected him and investigated – something we'll hear more about in a bit..
The next report [UCPI0000010775] is from August 1976

There is also this report [UCPI0000021388] from September.…

Chessum married in July and then went to Cornwall on honeymoon. He didn't know what was going on in TOM/ London that summer.
He explained more about the alliance between the (libertarian) Big Flame and Gery Lawless, and said he found it strange to hear that Big Flame felt able to 'take over' TOM at this stage.
He suspects that 'Gibson' was heavily involved in this internal situation, and wonders if Gibson created the breakdown of this alliance.
He had told people about wanting to move to Liverpool (which had a large Irish community and a Big Flame group)

Chessum answered some more questions from the Inquiry about Big Flame and we moved on to hear more about Gibson's relationships with activist women.
He knew about 'Mary' and her flatmate at the time obviously. He found out later about Gibson's other sexual relationships, with women in Big Flame.

Chessum told us that the sexual 'culture' in London was very different to what he'd been used to (as a Methodist elsewhere)
He recalled that it was unusual for someone to get so involved in campaigning about Ireland, unless they had a personal connection or Irish background. The group did briefly wonder if he was some kind of infiltrator, but then decided that he wasn't.
Big Flame were suspicious of 'Rick Gibson'. They carried out background checks on prospective members, and took this seriously.
Chessum was spoken to in a launderette by a member of Big Flame. They had got hold of Gibson's date of birth and checked the birth certificate at Somerset House. They then went to the Local Records Office “in Kent I think it was” and found a death certificate.
They didn't know if he was from Special Branch or MI5. He had said that he was previously employed at a camp-site (run by an ex-army guy), and so they wondered if he had military connections.
They told Gibson that they needed to know more about what school he went to, etc. He would make us stories (about being expelled from school etc) and make up details of Gibson's 'relatives'.
Many of the details he provided were for people living in port towns, so this made them wonder if there was a link to Special Branch.
This went on for some time. Gibson was undeterred. So they took more drastic action – inviting him to meet them in a pub and then spreading out all the evidence they had gathered. “He looked as though he was going to cry”.
'Rick Gibson' cleared out of his cover flat immediately after this, and left it completely empty. He left a note for this one woman, but that was it.
Chessum was shown the dossier compiled by Big Flame, before it was sealed and hidden away. He was told to keep the story secret, so did, for many years.
After this, he saw Mary and her flat-mate, and told them what he had seen. He says they were shocked but not surprised – they had already discussed the possibility of him being some kind of policeman.

They had noticed his habit of never staying overnight, and wondered if this was because he had a wife to go back to.
Chessum now wonders to what extent 'Gibson' was sent to target him personally – he talked about an office behind a bank in Woolwich where Rick claimed to work (at this time Chessum was working in the area too).
They sometimes met up for a chat on the (free) Woolwich Ferry.

After Rick had disappeared he went to check that office, and found it empty too. He rang a number given to him by the bank, and described that phone call.
We are shown a Special Branch memorandum from June 1986 [MPS-0731078] which mentions a freelance researcher working on a book about Special Branch
He had been in touch with Chessum and found out about Big Flame's findings. Someone else had reported seeing 'Gibson' outside New Scotland Yard.
Chessum was not surprised that the #spycops were interested in this political activity, but he was surprised by the sheer volume of personal information being recorded and retained about him and others.
“I find it sinister, actually” he says now.
He went on to talk about the times in his life when he has found it hard to find employment – for example at a postal sorting office – and suspects that he was 'blacklisted' in some way due to his political activity (especially the connection with Northern Ireland).
He has no direct evidence for this theory, but many of his friends have commented on his not being offered work.
With that, the morning session ended. We will see if there are any further questions for Richard Chessum after lunch.
The #spycopsinquiry will start again at 14:35 (Amba hotel time) so at 14:45 for those trying to follow proceedings from elsewhere.
You can download Richard Chessum's witness statement from…
The only person with any questions for Richard Chessum was Mr Marquis, his own Counsel.
He sought to clarify the details of the London Coordinating Committee election that we heard about earlier. Rick Gubson and Chessum were both standing for the position of group delegate to that Committee.
Both Workers Fight and the Rev Comm Group turned up in numbers at the meeting where this election took place.
They were on one side; Rick and Richard on the other. They felt sure that the votes would go one of 2 ways: either the sectarians would win or the two Richards.
In the end, the result was that Gibson and one of the sectarians were elected to the two positions. Chessum reckons this must be because Gibson voted for himself but not for Chessum.
He also wanted to explain the circumstance around his withdrawal from the running for the London committee. He and another woman both withdrew rather than competing against each other (he considered her and her husband to be friends).
He does not think Gibson would have been aware of these private conversations taking place in the background. He thinks that Gibson reported that he was 'in line for the job'.
We know that Gibson rose up the movement after this – all the way to the top (Convenor of the Secretariat). What difference would this altered election result have had on the organisation?
Chessum could only repeat that there is no way that HN297 could have had the best interests of the movement in his mind.
Mititng asked more about Big Flame, and their description as 'libertarian Marxists' – Chessum explained that they were libertarian in the sense of being “less dogmatic and they were more open to discussion”.
Big Flame differed from other groups on the Left who had a 'party line' and did not allow for differences of opinion.
“Were they relatively well organised?” Mitting asked next. Chessum couldn't answer this; he was never a member.
He says they were interested in free discussion, rather than being too concerned with their structures.
Mitting then thanked Chessum for providing such quality evidence, and for putting him right about his earlier assumptions:
He had described Gibson's deployment as “unremarkable” earlier in the #spycopsinquiry and now sees that this was not the case at all.
Let's hope that Mitting continues to learn from the evidence of non State core participants and witnesses, and everyone who was spied on by these disgraced #spycops units rather than trusting the police to provide answers.

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6 May
Today we hear from Celia Stubbs, a non State core participant.
Her witness statement is now at…

You can watch on
There is a ten minute delay in place, which we'll do our best to stick to as we tweet
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The #SpyCopsInquiry is starting again -

Watch at
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Having heard from Richard Chessum, a 'non State core participant' (ie someone who was spied on), the #SpyCopsInquiry is due to hear from another former undercover officer, 'HN200', this afternoon.
This is being streamed on youtube, with a ten-minute delay:
This means you'll be able to see it (and our tweets about it) from about 15:15 onwards.

In the meantime, you can read a summary of HN200's deployment on pages 171-174 of the Counsel to the Inquiry's opening statement:…

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