Former undercover police officer resigns academic posts

Bob Lambert, who has quit London Met and St Andrews, fathered child with activist he was spying on

December 23, 2015
University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews. Source: iStock

A lecturer exposed as a former undercover police officer who had sexual relationships with activists he was spying on has resigned from his academic posts.

Bob Lambert, who fathered a child with one of the activists, has stepped down as a lecturer in terrorism studies at the University of St Andrews and as a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University’s John Grieve Policing Centre. It comes after a long-running campaign for him to be sacked.

Dr Lambert worked for the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) in the 1980s, tasked with targeting environmental and animal rights groups, and led its operations during the 1990s.

After his retirement, he moved into academia, completing a PhD in politics at the University of Exeter in 2010.

But the following year The Guardian revealed his undercover past and details of the sexual relationships emerged.

Dr Lambert, who had taken on the identity of a boy who died at the age of 7, was also accused of lying in court about his real identity. And in 2014, MP Caroline Lucas used parliamentary privilege to reveal allegations that he had been involved in a firebombing campaign that caused £340,000 of damage to three Debenhams branches in 1987 – something that he denied.

Dr Lambert confirmed his departure from both universities in a statement quoted by The Herald newspaper.

“I have resigned from my part-time teaching positions at the University of St Andrews and London Metropolitan University and would like to take this opportunity to thank management, colleagues and students at both institutions for their kindness and support,” Dr Lambert said.

“Henceforward I will pursue my academic interests in responses to terrorism and political violence as an independent researcher. I will also continue to cooperate with the investigations and inquiry into undercover policing.”

In 2014 the Metropolitan Police paid £425,000 compensation to the animal rights activist with whom Dr Lambert – who was already married with children – fathered a son. Dr Lambert disappeared when the boy was 2, and the woman received psychiatric care after learning his real identity.

But both St Andrews and London Met stood by Dr Lambert and, writing for Times Higher Education earlier this year, academic Stefano Bonino argued that he should keep his post.

Dr Bonino, lecturer in criminology at Northumbria University, said that the SDS had helped to save lives and prevent disorder and that, while these successes did not excuse “serious mistakes”, Dr Lambert’s experience represented a valuable contribution to academia.

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