DORSET’S world-famous cosmetics brand Lush is standing by a controversial campaign which has seen it slated for being “anti-police”. 

The company, one of Poole’s biggest employers, intended to highlight concerns about undercover officers who infiltrated protest groups.

Some police had long-term relationships with unsuspecting activists.

Many people left negative reviews on the company’s Facebook page, causing the company’s rating there to fall to 1.2 out of five by Friday afternoon.

A statement from Lush said: “This is not an anti-state/anti-police campaign. We are aware that the police forces of the UK are doing an increasingly difficult and dangerous job whilst having their funding slashed. We fully support them in having proper police numbers, correctly funded to fight crime, violence and to be there to serve the public at our times of need.” 

It added: “This campaign is not about the real police work done by those front line officers who support the public every day – it is about a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed.  

“Our campaign is to highlight this small and secretive subset of undercover policing that undermines and threatens the very idea of democracy.”

The controversy about undercover policing was ignited in 2010 when it emerged that officer Mark Kennedy had lived among activists for seven years under the name Mark Stone, having long-term relationships with several women.

Some officers used the identities of dead children, while one whistleblower said he had been assigned to spy  on the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence.

A public inquiry began in 2015 and has so far cost £9million without any hearings in public.

Lush says the inquiry is in danger of collapsing and it wants the public to lobby home secretary Sajid Javid.

Simon Kempton, a Dorset police officer who is operational policing lead with the Police Federation, said he was “deeply disappointed”. 

“Inadvertently or otherwise, it’s tarnished all police officers, both visually in the away that the store front is dressed up and in terms of the message, which is a picture of a uniformed police officer,” he said.

“All advertising does is grab your attention and portray messages in the first second or two and all people are seeing is a police officer and ‘Paid to lie’.

“The only message you can take from it is a message about the police generally.”

He added: “We live in a liberal democracy and it’s entirely a question for them how they advertise in their shopfronts as long as it doesn’t break the law, but I think they don’t understand how it could be taken. 

“If a member of staff in one of their shops hit the panic button right now, police officers would go to their assistance not knowing that they were going into or if they were putting their lives on the line to keep their staff safe.”

Dorset's PCC Martyn Underhill responds to campaign 

Lush chief executive Mark Constantine donated £15,000 to the election campaign of independent police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill in 2012 and £30,000 in 2016.

Mr Underhill said in a statement: “I think it should be made clear, this campaign is not about policing in general.

“It is not about the huge number of officers who serve the public day in day out with integrity, dedication and absolute professionalism. This campaign centres around the actions of a very specific unit of undercover officers based in London, the Special Demonstration Squad who are subject to a public enquiry about their actions in infiltrating groups of animal rights campaigners and effectively ‘setting up home’ with some of the activists who were women.”

He said the activity of those undercover officers had been “disproportionate and distasteful” and he had met a policing minister in 2014 to discuss the issue.

“In the interests of transparency, Mark Constantine, the owner of Lush, did make donations toward both of my election campaigns. Nothing was offered or exchanged, then or now, for those donations,” he said.

“It is important to note that Mr Constantine, believes in the independent scrutiny of our police force and that’s why I believe he supported an independent candidate. However, our views differ on many issues, including some very important ones, such as Brexit.”

He added: “In short, I do support Lush in exposing this issue, indeed, I would support any organisation that did the same. However, I acknowledge and understand the public condemnation of what seems to be on the face of it (as you walk past the display window of Lush) a company being anti-police.”