Helen Steel

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Helen Steel (born 1965)[1] is an environmental and social justice activist[2] who is known for her involvement in the McLibel case, an English lawsuit for libel filed by McDonald's Corporation that lasted for 10 years and was eventually taken to the European Court, where Steel and Morris won their case against the UK government on the grounds that they had been denied a fair trial. She is a key figure in the 'Spycops' scandal and subsequent Undercover Policing Inquiry.

Undercover policing[edit]

Helen Steel is a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. She is one of several women who were deceived into long-term relationships with undercover police officers, but is one of only two who have spoken publicly about their ordeal while using their own name.[3]

Steel was a victim of the UK Spycops[4] scandal,[5] deceived into a long term relationship with police officer, John Dines,[6] (known to Steel as John Barker) who was working undercover, as part of a wider police operation, to gain information on campaigners involved in the organisation London Greenpeace.[7][8] Steel met Dines in the late 1980s,[9] and in 1990 began a relationship with him, which lasted 2 years.[10] They lived together, and had discussed starting a family together.[11] After 2 years Dines disappeared abroad, claiming to have had a breakdown. Steel has said she spent years searching for him, and it was during this time that she discovered he had been using a false identity (that of a dead child).[10] She tracked him down and confronted him in 2016, when he then apologised to her.[12]

Steel is one of seven women who were apologised to by the Metropolitan Police for their deception[13][14] and one of eight women to bring a legal action against the police for the abuses entailed by their undercover police operations.[15]


  1. ^ "Case of Steel and Morris v. the United Kingdom: Judgement". Strasbourg: European Court of Human Rights. 15 February 2005.
  2. ^ Lowe, Josh (18 April 2016). "Women 'Spied on by Police' Call For Transparency". Newsweek.
  3. ^ "Helen's Story". Police Spies Out of Lives. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  4. ^ Casciani, Dominic (24 March 2019). "How Long will the Undercover Police Inquiry Take?". BBC News.
  5. ^ Wheatley, Jane (18 March 2016). "Helen Steel and John Dines: The spy who loved me". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  6. ^ Wall, Josh (9 March 2016). "Helen Steel confronts former spy who tricked her into a relationship - video". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Saner, Emine (29 August 2014). "Helen Steel on her relationship with an undercover policeman: 'I feel violated'". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Bush, Stephen (19 October 2018). "The latest revelations show that Spycops isn't just one scandal, but two". New Statesman.
  9. ^ Snowdon, Kathryn; Hartley, Eve (5 April 2017). "The Women Activists Who Fell In Love With Police Spies Are Still Waiting For Justice". HuffPost UK.
  10. ^ a b Morgan, Tom (20 November 2015). "Scotland Yard's multi-million pound apology to seven women deceived into relationships with officers". The Daily Telegraph.
  11. ^ "Ex-police spy 'sorry' over relationship deceit". BBC News. 10 March 2016.
  12. ^ Farrell, Paul; Evans, Rob (9 March 2016). "Undercover UK police spy apologises after being tracked down by woman he deceived". The Guardian.
  13. ^ Casciani, Dominic (20 November 2015). "Met Police apology for women tricked into relationships". BBC News.
  14. ^ Evans, Rob (20 November 2015). "Police apologise to women who had relationships with undercover officers". The Guardian.
  15. ^ "Legal Actions". Police Spies out of Lives. n.d. Retrieved 27 October 2019.