Two reviews to investigate Lawrence smear claims

 

Home Secretary Theresa May: "The Lawrence family experienced an unspeakable tragedy"

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Claims that police tried to smear murder victim Stephen Lawrence's family will be investigated by two existing inquiries, Theresa May has said.

The home secretary also told MPs there should be a "ruthless" purging of corruption from police ranks.

It comes after undercover officer Peter Francis said he was instructed in 1993 to find information that could discredit the Lawrence family.

Stephen's father, Neville, said "only a judge-led public inquiry will suffice".

Scotland Yard has refused to confirm or deny the claims made in the Guardian newspaper by Mr Francis.

'Unspeakable tragedy'

Black teenager Stephen, 18, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths as he waited at a bus stop in south-east London in April 1993.

A number of suspects were identified soon after the attack but it took more than 18 years to bring his killers to justice. An inquiry accused the police of institutional racism and found failings in how they had investigated the murder.

Former undercover officer Mr Francis told the Guardian and Channel 4's Dispatches programme that after Mr Lawrence's killing he posed as an anti-racism campaigner in a hunt for "disinformation" to use against those criticising the police.

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The allegation on the Guardian's website that officers at the Metropolitan Police wanted to smear Doreen and Neville Lawrence raises fresh questions about the appallingly botched original investigation.”

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Working as part of the Met's now-disbanded Special Demonstration Squad, which specialised in gathering intelligence on political activists, he said he had come under pressure to find "any intelligence that could have smeared the campaign" - including whether any of the family were political activists, involved in demonstrations or drug dealers.

Mr Francis, who used the name Peter Black while under cover, said the aim of his operation had been to ensure that the public "did not have as much sympathy for the Stephen Lawrence campaign" and to persuade "the media to start maybe tarring the campaign".

Mrs May said the Lawrence family had "experienced an unspeakable tragedy".

She continued: "Their pain was compounded by the many years in which justice was not done, and these allegations still coming 20 years after Stephen's murder only add to their suffering."

Any investigations should be "ruthless in purging" corruption and wrongdoing from police ranks, she said.

Barrister Mark Ellison QC - who successfully prosecuted Gary Dobson and David Norris for Stephen's murder in 2012 - is already examining police corruption during the original investigation into the killing.

Mrs May told the Commons that he would look at the latest allegations as well.

Neville Lawrence: "We need public inquiry led by a judge"

And they would also be looked at as part of Operation Herne, which is an investigation into undercover policing at the Metropolitan Police, being led by the chief constable of Derbyshire police, Mick Creedon.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is supervising some strands of Operation Herne.

Mrs May said: "Where the Creedon investigation finds evidence of criminal behaviour or misconduct by police officers, the IPCC will investigate and the officers will be brought to justice".

Neville Lawrence said the latest news had taken away the faith he had started to build in the police.

"It is unthinkable that in the extremely dark days and months after my son's murder that my family were subject to such scrutiny," he said in a statement.

"I understand that the home secretary has announced that she will extend the inquiries of Mark Ellison QC and Operation Herne, I would like to make it clear that I find this completely unsatisfactory.

"I have no confidence that the measures announced today will get to the bottom of this matter."

Stephen Lawrence murder

Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, 18, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths as he waited at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London in April 1993.

A number of suspects were identified soon after the attack but it took more than eighteen years to bring his killers to justice.

Several attempts to prosecute the suspects, including a private prosecution by the family, failed due to unreliable or insufficient evidence.

In 1997, then Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered a public inquiry into the killing and its aftermath after concerns about the way the police had handled the case.

Sir William Macpherson, a retired High Court judge, led the inquiry. He accused the police of institutional racism and found a number of failings in how they had investigated the murder.

In January 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of Stephen's murder by an Old Bailey jury after a review of the forensic evidence.

Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier he wanted to "get the full truth out" about the latest "horrific" allegations.

The IPCC said it was expecting to receive information from the Met in connection with the allegations "which may raise potential conduct matters" about officers from the Special Demonstration Squad.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "If these allegations are true, it's a disgrace, and the Metropolitan Police Service will apologise."

He added: "Smearing the family of a murder victim would never be acceptable to me or my officers".

'Really angry'

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: "At some point it will fall upon this generation of police leaders to account for the activities of our predecessors, but for the moment we must focus on getting to the truth."

The man who was in charge of the Met between 1993 and 2000, former commissioner Lord Condon, said he had had no knowledge of any campaign to smear the Lawrence family.

David Cameron: "Potentially the police that were meant to be helping them were actually undermining them"

"I can say categorically that at no time during my time as commissioner did I authorise or condone or was aware of the sort of smear operation that's been described in the Guardian," he said.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose responsibilities include oversight of the Met, said he had already spoken to current commissioner Sir Bernard about the claims and pledged to "leave absolutely no stone unturned".

Mr Lawrence's mother, Doreen Lawrence, said earlier that she was shocked and angry at Mr Francis's disclosure.

"Out of all the things I've found out over the years, this certainly has topped it," she said.

"It just makes me really, really angry that all of this has been going on and all the time trying to undermine us as a family."

Dispatches is broadcast on Channel 4 on Monday 24 June at 20:00 BST.

 

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  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 108.

    This ladies & gentlemen is exactly what you eventually arrive at when you've promoted & operated a culture of zero accountability for many years!

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 107.

    11. Fairminded -Its not about hand wringing leftys. The Police have been letting victims of crime down from Lawrences family to the familys of those children groomed by Asian gangs. The remit of the police is to uphold law and order, they have failed to do that far too many times without anyone carrying the can. From Hillsborough to Rochdale how many Officers have been fired?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 106.

    Sick and tired of hearing about this for 20+ years. No one cares any more.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 105.

    So, the lawmakers in Westminster are corrupt, the law enforcers are corrupt and our media is corrupt.

    Society is then accused of being disobedient when we show distrust in this nation's authoritative figures.

    A revolution is needed from the top down; anything less is simply covering the cracks.

  • rate this
    -16

    Comment number 104.

    Dont see a problem the police have to check his past and his family out to see if there was any motive for the murder other than ramdom rasicm what i do find amazing it the amount of time effort and coverage that this family has had compared to most other familys who have had members murdered
    i myself have no problem with the police checking my calls email ect as ive got nothing to hide have you?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 103.

    .

    Perpetually highlighting this case has drained me of all sympathy, especially when there are so many other racist atrocities that the BBC and the liberal elite studiously and willfully ignore!

    .

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 102.

    We can look at this two ways;

    1: The police who supposed to undertake the investigation are incompetent
    2: They know who did it and don't want to say

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 101.

    @11 - if you can't see the difference between the police handling of the Stephen Lawrence case and the majority of other stabbings, then there's no hope for you. But then again, perhaps you're happy to live in a state where the likes of London Met believes it can do whatever it likes, whenever it likes, to whoever it dislikes.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 100.

    the news is both sad and unpleasant, but at least it has got out

    both its' publication and the Met's initial response indicate some change for the better in society - and we should recognise that too

    the Lawrence family have had to bear a quite intolerable burden for our society's difficulty in facing itself

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 99.

    As Fairminded so eloquently points out (@11), why do certain families (McCann, Lawrence,Paynes) extract disproportionate resources, hand-wringing and indignation? Why, if the police were labelled "institutionally racist (for actions 20 years' ago) would anyone be surprised?

    What provides my comfort is knowing that strategic management of the Met is now in such strong hands (Boris)!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 98.

    Doesn't surprise me in the least. Lies, lies, lies to cover their backs and look out for their own. How? the IPCC is a joke.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 97.

    Let the lad rest in peace. He was murdered by a criminal or criminals it doesn't matter what colour or race anyone is its wrong to kill. All sides in this tragedy have been 'milking' it for too long and the lawyers have just loved it.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 95.

    Once again we find the police are as underhand as any criminal I have heard of...No wonder we have little or no faith in them. Phone for the Police, & phone for a pizza, see which comes first.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 94.

    We've went over this case time and time again. So many changes have been made to the police force, and to the country in general.

    I don't see any merit in having yet another inquiry into this case. Times have changed.

    No doubt another crumb of scandal will be fed to us in a month or two, and we can all call the police racist again.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 93.

    ~3.helgy2

    "It's not looking good at the moment for democracy."

    First you have to find a democratic state. The US can't stand people like Assange and Snowden expressing the truth, and the UK stands behind statements such as "we're acting within the law" whilst it tracks people who might raise eyebrows. Democracy is about allowing representing people rather than repressing people.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 92.

    two questions; what is the |Guardian's agenda, and why do the BBC always publish what they say entirely uncritically? neutrality? I don't think so, so doubtless this won't get past the "moderators" as the GuardianBC call their censors

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 91.

    Analyse every reported instance and degree of police corruption, and it is clear that generally speaking the rot sets in at the top - your average on-the-beat PC is not in a position to make shameful decisions of this type. But presumably "the top" were once o-t-b PCs - so this macho, up-yours culture soaks into some but not others. Selective weeding needed at all stages of career, esp. promotion.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 90.

    Without googling, see if you recognise either of these 2 names; Claire Tiltman or Jean Bradley. The list goes on, there are still unsolved murders from london in the same year as Lawrence. These families deserve as much resource as anyone else, but they'll never see it due to the high profile of this case. No help, no high profile, or greedy lawyers for their families. This is not equality.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 89.

    @11. Fairminded

    And so the disinformation begins. Which organisation do you work for then? Typical to attack the messenger rather than address the problem. I assume your nom de plume is your attempt at irony?

 

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