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

    Comment number 128.

    27.spineless_bias_bbc. How about if for no other reason we can actually punish those in the police force who feel they are actually above the law. And when I say punish, I mean, pension stripped away and jail time. It would happen in any other profession. The fact this type of behaviour constantly crops up, its not a one of, totally undermines any confidence left for the boys in blue

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    It's time to stop the witch hunt of our bobbies and make sure the scum that killed this boy and others like them are put away,without TV's,pool tables,gyms,the vote,legal aid etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    When is this endless trawling up the past going to end. Things have moved on and we're not going to learn anything new from yet ANOTHER enquiry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Pity they didn't do it to Murdochs crowd..!!! Instead of dining with them and buying them Champagne set of rules for some and one for others...they need to investigate this first and there seems to have been a VERY cosy relationship between the Met and News corp...!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Over the years I've lost trust in the police and other establishment institutions. There's a culture that is self serving and self-protective. I think it's something to do with 'professional' managers who haven't worked their way up, but who are parachuted in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Stop and think.

    Was the Met investigating the Lawrence family to dig up some dirt to smear them?


    Was the Met investigating the Lawrence family to try and find any reason why Stephen was attached?

    The key issue here is the REASON it was done, not what was done. We have only one person's word here, that of an embittered ex-cop.

  • Comment number 122.

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

  • Comment number 121.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Pursuing and revealing the behaviour of the police in the Lawrence case helps us all because it makes future handling of future crimes more likely to be just and proper. But our trust in the police can never have been as low as it is now. They are unaccountable and law unto themselves. We give our politicians the power to control them - its a shame we can't trust the politicians either!

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I don't know which is worse, that our leaders say one thing to our faces while secretly doing precisely the opposite, or that they say one thing to our faces while unbeknownst to them our security services are doing the opposite.

    The world has to change. This old-fashioned way of "government" has got to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    With so much organised crime, drug and people trafficking, child abuse rings and arms smuggling going on at the time, to spy on the Lawrences and their social circle is beyond reprehensible. Funny how they did not think of infiltrating the accused men's networks but decided to smear the victims instead. Who ordered it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Where are the investigations of white victims of crime often ignored by the police?

  • Comment number 116.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Looks like the Police's Smokescreen department is "all hands to the pumps" on HYS today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    As if it was not enough for the Lawrence family to loose a son, instead of properly investigating to find the killers, the police seem to have decided to further victimise the family. The senior officers responsible for this shameful behaviour should be punished. This cannot be allowed to happen again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    This is the time for ministers to publicly show their disgust & call for an investigation. Then send in more civil servants to compile a comprehensive report. Then when the report findings are discovered to again show their disgust & to nothing. Unless it's close to election time, then some poor schmuck will go down. Otherwise, they'll expect us to forget & focus on the next new scandal.

  • Comment number 112.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    And the police wonder why people don't trust them...

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    23. +1
    This may come as a surprise to Eton/Oxford chaps, but those of us from South London knew the caliber of the Met years ago. I wonder how many coppers we'll see banged up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    This doesn't surprise me one bit. The police seem to put limitless effort into projects that suite them but are full of excuses when trying to catch the original perpetrators. If the police want public respect they are going almost the perfect way not to get it.

    So sorry for the Lawrence family, they show incredible dignity that most would not be able to match.

    RIP Steven, you aren't forgotten.


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