Forty Years of Guilt: Operation Julie is 40 years old – Undercover Veteran Tells All

Manila, Philippines: Stephen Bentley was a 28-years old as an undercover detective on Operation Julie in 1976. He still feels guilt about deceiving Smiles. He befriended Smiles as part of infiltrating Llanddewi Brefi, a small village in rural Wales, later made famous by TV’s Little Britain and Matt Lucas.  Smiles was sentenced to 8-years imprisonment for his part in the LSD manufacturing and distribution network smashed by Operation Julie. Some have described this undercover police operation as the start of the war on drugs. Others say it became the blueprint for future undercover police operations.  When police finally swooped in March 1977, they seized 6.5 million LSD “tabs”, along with share certificates and Swiss bank accounts valued in the millions. Operation Julie resulted in sentences totaling over 120 years being passed down on 15 defendants.

Stephen says of Smiles that “he could have been a TV chat show host” such was his charisma. It took 8 months of posing as a hippie for Stephen to be accepted by Smiles. During that time, he ‘toked’ on weed, smoked a bong and snorted cocaine in order to impress his new credentials upon Smiles. Although Operation Julie is synonymous with LSD, Stephen also discovered a plot to import huge quantities of cocaine into Britain from Bolivia via the United States.

Stephen is currently writing his memoir about Operation Julie and his undercover experiences. It is a book that has been in his head for at least 30 years. It is only recently that he has had the courage to be frank about his feelings. The hippie lifestyle and the deception has taken its toll. The book was thought to be a therapy, instead it has unleashed deep feelings of angst and guilt within him. Stephen now suffers from nightmares and waking panic attacks. They are not assuaged by the fact that he and Smiles have recently made contact with each other. “No hard feelings” is what they both said – at the time of the drugs busts and on fresh contact after 40 years. Stephen has been in contact with the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing. The Inquiry team feel he may have a valuable contribution as an undercover officer in the vanguard of British police undercover operations. He intends to make written submissions to the Inquiry as soon as he receives an immunity from prosecution from the Attorney-General.

You are able to check for publication updates on Stephen’s memoir on his author website.

Image attached is Stephen Bentley as an undercover detective in Wales 1976. ©Stephen Bentley

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