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 328.

    The idea this sort of thing is not going on now made by Straw seems naive. we are talking 1997 not 1957

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    Could it ne, like the CIA, our security Services have their own agenda? In Spycatcher, it was alleged MI 5/6 speid on Harold wilson, spy on a PM/ Then a private individual is not a problem. Another form of "ratf&*^ing" a la Watergate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    @148 Dabbler273

    The most honest and realistic and true post on here today

  • Comment number 325.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    @11 Fairminded - So institutional racism doesn't bother you? The reason why this case has been brought up time and time again is because of the grave miscarriage of justice involved that could shame a developing country. Brush it under the carpet at your own peril, not mine or anyone else's.

  • Comment number 323.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Looking at recent years it would appear that those employed to enforce the law seem wilfully unaware of the need to keep it themselves!! Shameful!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    140. JP

    I fully agree. But I wonder how long it will be before your post is removed? I notice the editors are taking WELL over two hours to post each opinion, so yours may even have disappeared before this one is posted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    Perhaps we do not live in a democracy after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    How much more time and money are we going to spend on the Stephen Lawrence case? Not to mention millions more on Madeleine.

    There are murders and kids going missing every day in London alone. Get policing - not grandstanding!

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    "What is it with this country at the moment, all its interested with is things and practices of 20 to 30 years ago"
    It's not the country, it's the media.

    "....we have the most accountable Police Service in the world"
    I wouldn't be too sure about that.

    BBC - Why all this ridiculous, over the top moderation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Unbelievable but at the same time completely believable and typical of the UK Police. The police force in our country was originally set up as a private security organisation in order to protect the rich and powerful and their property - nothing much has changed. We have to accept that the 'force' has been an instrument of the State since even before the Miner's strike. Hence Hillsborough now this

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.


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


    Because it doesn't sit comfortably with an establishment which is fully signed up to the multicultural agenda....which in turn, was forced upon us by the last government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    // Minerve

    RIP Steven, you aren't forgotten....//

    No, unlike white victims of racist crime by non-whites, who the BBC completely disregards...remember Ross Parker?

    The BBC is operating to an agenda, and has plenty of questions to answer about its own race attitudes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    And they still expect us to believe they are not spying on us.
    I used to think that if you were doing nothing wrong, there would be no need to worry about it.
    I get the feeling that it has only been revealed now because the people to be held responsible are now beyond reproach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    90. MassMediocrity - The Lawrence case got the attention because the family would not accept the situation & fought for justice. Maybe if other families joined together & brought the police to book like the Hillsborough families the would understand that writing off a case because the victim isn't worth it would cease. How many more families must suffer this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    2 Hours ago
    If the police were able to do this 20 years ago, and get away with it, how much more frequent will this sort of thing be today?

    An awful lot more since they were "politicised" by Labour

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Francis has been co-operating with the Guardian as a confidential source since 2011, using his undercover alias Pete Black- reports the Guardian.

    Was he running out of things to uncover come 2013?

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    Criminals now run rings round the police,just like terrorists use our rules and laws against us.It is standard police practice to investigate those nearest to a murder victim,including as distressing as it may seem searching their hse etc.We dont know the full facts so it is hard to call.However how many people would like areturn to life on mars policing,the "human rights"lawyers have arrived now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    117. Political_Incorrect

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


    that report is 14 years old.
    It would be interesting to see more up to date figures.


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