Sherwood on BBC: Are spy cops real?

Sherwood: Extended Trailer

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Sherwood delves into the story of a manhunt in Nottinghamshire with the townspeople and police in search of not one but two murderers. The fractured community had already faced difficulties three decades prior thanks to the Miners’ Strike in the 1980s, causing divisions between loved ones and neighbours. The six-part BBC One drama introduces the idea of “spy cops”, people living among the miners who pretended to be one of them in order to report back to the police with inside information.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Sherwood.

Are “spy cops” real?

Throughout the BBC drama Sherwood, there are flashbacks taking fans back to the 1980s strike where police and miners would regularly clash with one another.

Members of the community also fought against their fellow miners who went back to work for monetary reasons and this is when “spy cops” are discussed.

In Sherwood, undercover police officers are used to pose as miners to find out what they can and report back to their superiors but as of yet, their identities haven’t been revealed in the drama.

While there is no fixed evidence the police did employ spy cops during the strike fallout in real life, the BBC reported on a 2019 inquiry investigating “spy cops” infiltrating the National Union of Mineworkers in 1980s Wales.

The Met Police set up its undercover police unit called Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) in 1968 which had the purpose of infiltrating protest groups.

Later, it was discovered in 2013, SDS officers had spied on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence during their campaign for justice.

According to the Guardian, at least 20 undercover officers deceived women into intimate relationships, often lasting years, with some allegedly having children with them during the operation.

In response, Theresa May, who was the Home Secretary at the time, set up the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCIP), looking into how covert policing operations were being run.

Last month, the public inquiry was pushed back another two years.

Speaking to press, including Express.co.uk, creator James Graham talked of wanting to bring the idea of “spy cops” to the small screen.

He said: “There are many stories that we’ve taken inspiration from and one of those is…around spy cops and undercover police officers that were more familiarly placed into things like the Greenpeace movement.

“But actually there’s a belief that certainly the National Union of Mineworkers still believe, that undercover officers from the London Met were placed into communities in the 1980s to report back on essentially law-abiding innocent people in the industrial movement.

“So we try and tell that story and it’s a mystery element in it.”

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Graham went on to tease: “There is an old spy cop who is living in the village, who is a character in the drama, who you may or may not have seen on screen [already].

“There’s a question mark about who they are.

“But also, I hope, [it is] a human study of what it must be like to assume an identity go to a different part of the world, and live with someone else essentially spying on and arguably betraying the people that you’re surrounded by.”

Sherwood will be returning for its second instalment of the week this evening (Tuesday, 14).

The description for episode two simply reads: “As the hunt for the killer continues, Kevin Salisbury from the MET arrives to assist in the investigation.

“And tensions mount as the killer torments the community further.”

But going by the synopsis for episode three which comes out on Monday, June 20, it is then revealed there is a “spy cop” living among them but who is it?

Sherwood continues every Monday and Tuesday at 9pm on BBC One.

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