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 308.

    We all know what happens next; taxpayers pay for a long running enquiry, several "human rights" barristers will make enough to buy some more villas in Tuscany, the Guardian will give itself another Goodygoody award , some BBC editor will get a 6 figure bonus and there will be lots of celebratory parties in Islington. Move along, please, taxpayers in the real world, nothing to see here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    It just shows that Politian's do not give a dam about the people and only want laws to spy on us while they sit back and tell us this not going on

    Do not trust Politian's they are only in it for what they can get out of the system

    Police only do what there higher ups tell them to do there higher ups do as they are told to do by Politian's

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    The police have infiltrated every subversive protest group in this country to protect us from harm. We should be thankful for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    good job we don't live in a police state where the government monitors your every move, the police get away with cover ups and doing what they want either inside or outside the boundary of the law, you can get 6 month for protesting in a river whilst some toffs race a boat.....oh we do, and then criticize other countries for their lack of democracy and fairness, yet we do it to our own people...

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    @129 Mike Thomas.
    OK, Mr Know-it-all - what was he "up to"? Please enlighten us. Not.
    In the meantime, hopefully, wiser counsels will prevail.
    Given the nature of the allegations, this is definitely one for the ICPC, rather than the Met itself, to investigate, along with an outside police force.
    Until then, I suggest we all forego the luxury of 'yes, they did/no, they didn't' fact-free assertion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    All this proves, if proof be needed, is that the "powers that be" are not accountable to anyone.
    The sooner we have a written constitution which holds all sections of the executive to account the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    re 136 Tykeinexile

    Ah, then the ex officer who phoned in must have been rather like news journalist Andrew Neil on BBC2's Daily Politics/Sunday Politics when he's interviewing someone whose opinion he clearly doesn't share.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    It is good that an investigation has been ordered - I just hope that it is effective and not delayed in anyway.

    However, even if the recent relevations are groundless, the damage will have been done and our policy (many of whom are exemplary) will continue to be blamed for the sins of the past.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    Another investigation to "learn lessons" "seek answers to difficult questions" or in other words another stall in actually getting the truth as to why the original accused were not brought to justice to account for their actions. waste of time ...again.... what will happen, see the results of all the other high level enquiries.... simply nothing RIP Steven I am so sorry you will never get justice

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    I am not sure if I believe this guy, if the police wanted to smear someone/group of people they would just go ahead and do it, I refer you to Hillsborough as evidence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Like most of us (I guess) I believed that the police were mostly decent, honest people, tarnished by a few bad apples.
    But this issue takes my breath away and forces me to re-think. Who could have dreamed up such an evil scheme - to spy on the family of a murdered teenager? Who would have the cynical cheek to carry it out?
    Sometimes I am ashamed to have a UK passport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.


    You only had to listen to the Met's testimony to the Leveson Inquiry to realise what poor quality the senior police officers at the Met were, and are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Is it just me or has the Met been increasingly unethical in its conduct of public affairs?

    Phone hacking and close-for-comfort relationship with News International;

    The death of Ian Tomlinson;

    Allegations of racism by Tarique Ghaffur;

    Kettling protesters in confined spaces;

    Mark Kennedy, the undercover officer who has sexual relations with suspects.

    The Met needs to pull itself together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Underhand and illegal tactics by those sworn to protect the rights of the individual and their property, such as police officers, should not be involved in any kind of underhand smear tactics, let alone to protect themselves, their colleagues and their own incompetence. One has to ask who does police the police, properly or at all?

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    We've had enough enquiries about this case, and police should now be concentrating on other cases.

    Compensation has already been paid, and yet another review won't bring much to the table.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    When are the BBC going to show, in the interests of full disclosure and neutrality, the uncropped version of the Lawrence photo used on their front page.

    Is there perhaps a reason why only a cropped version is ever used?

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    129.Mike Thomas - I've heard similar stories. And yes we will get moderated. You're not allowed to say anything bad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    It's interesting despite all the efforts of the Lawrence family they were subjected to this. How many other victim families, black, white, gay, etc have suffered this? How many criminals have escaped because the victim was felt not worth the effort? This is important it could happen to any of us.

  • Comment number 290.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

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

    Attached to what? Seriously, you’re having a laugh, aren’t you?

    OK, imagine for a ridiculous moment that’s true: while the police strenuously investigated the victim, why were they not pursuing the criminals, WHOSE NAMES AND ADDRESSES THEY ALREADY KNEW?


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