Editor’s note, Oct 2020: British Aerospace is now BAE Systems.
Following the conclusion of investigations by both the Information Commissioner and the CAAT Steering Committee, Steering Committee has released the following statement, dated July 2005:
On 28th September 2003 the Sunday Times published an article alleging that between 1995 and (at least) 1997 British Aerospace had paid a company directed by Evelyn LeChene to infiltrate CAAT and collect information about its workings and activities. The journalists said that LeChene had used at least half a dozen agents posing as campaigners to provide detailed reports of work in the CAAT office, meetings and preparations for protests as well as copies of correspondence and other internal documents.
In an attempt to discover who LeChene’s agents were, CAAT staff carried out checks and discovered by chance that Martin Hogbin had been forwarding emails, many with similar content to that mentioned in the Sunday Times article, to an email address unknown to them @jofa.demon.co.uk. Martin also forwarded emails, concerning their campaigns and legal action, that had been copied to him by other organisations. The jofa emails, over a third of all those sent by Martin from his CAAT email account, continued right up until the publication of the Sunday Times article.
Martin was a volunteer for CAAT from May 1997 and joined the staff in 2000 as National Campaigns and Events Co-ordinator. He agreed that he had sent the emails, but his explanation as to the intended recipient lacked credibility. On legal advice, Martin was suspended by the CAAT Steering Committee on full pay on 3rd October 2003 pending an investigation, but he resigned on 5th October before this could begin. Steering Committee investigated nonetheless. Martin was invited to participate, without prejudice, but chose not to do so.
Some of the documentation on which the Sunday Times‘ article was based was made available to the CAAT Steering Committee investigating group and as well as CAAT staff. This confirmed that a number of individuals had been passing information to LeChene in the mid-1990’s. The Sunday Times had named Alan Fossey and LeChene’s son Adrian as two of these. Alan had been based in Hull and also travelled frequently to Merseyside: these were centres of campaigning against the sale of Hawk aircraft to Indonesia. Adrian lived in France and his reports focussed on the activities of the European Network Against Arms Trade of which CAAT is part.
Many of the reports, however, concerned activities in, or planned from, the CAAT office. Whilst CAAT cannot identify all the agents involved in providing LeChene with information about these, a careful study by the Steering Committee investigating group left little doubt that, from his first contact with CAAT, Martin was one of them.
Soon after the Sunday Times article appeared, officials from the Information Commissioner’s office contacted CAAT. In May 2004, following a series of meetings, CAAT made a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner that Martin had passed sensitive confidential information outside the organisation. The complaint was made in the hope that the Information Commissioner’s investigation would make the links to LeChene and what is now known as BAE Systems and that action would be taken against them.
Following the investigation, with which neither Martin nor LeChene co-operated, the Information Commissioner has reported to CAAT. He has confirmed that Martin was forwarding information by email to a company with links to LeChene.
Ironically, the Data Protection Act 1998 prevents Information Commissioner from giving CAAT details of the company concerned. The Commissioner has also decided not to take any action against Martin for, though confidential, the information forwarded in the emails did not meet the narrowed definition of personal data as set out in a recent Court of Appeal decision and so is not covered under the 1998 Act. The Information Commissioner was also shown the Sunday Times documentation as seen by CAAT. However, at the time to which the documentation relates, the 1984 Data Protection Act applied and, since neither LeChene nor any company run by her was ever registered under the Act, the only possible offence would be that of non-registration.
The CAAT Steering Committee regrets that it was not able to make all this information public sooner, but this would not have been appropriate whilst the Information Commissioner’s investigations continued. CAAT would recommend that campaigning organisations check their email logs for the period before October 2003 to make sure that no information was being forwarded to any email address @jofa.demon.co.uk and that any organisation considering working with Martin is aware of the contents of this statement.
Independently of CAAT, Eveline Lubbers of SpinWatch has been investigating LeChene’s operation. Her study can be found on the Spinwatch website.