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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  • Comment number 668.

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

  • Comment number 667.

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

  • rate this
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    Comment number 666.

    639. steve....posters have forgotten that the Lawrence's were not accused by the Police of anything and haven't actually had evidence fabricated against them.

    My point in #504. Where was this 'smear campaign?' Appears to have been a non-starter, or has there been a lot of embroidery around a singular ill-conceived suggestion?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 665.

    The number of stabbings in London has risen ten-fold since 1993.
    I prefered it when they were institutionally racist and could search people for knives without needed the permission of "community leaders"

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 664.

    Kozzy06 well said. I am sick to my back teeth of 'priorities for minorities' -the signature policy of the ruling liberal left elite of london.

    They don't raise a finger when it comes to racial murders by Africans on Europeans. This attitude serves no one: It alienates those of african descent even more and angers those of European descent who perceive (rightly) bias.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 663.

    This certainly needs investigation, but please not a long drawn out one. The public deserves answers and quickly.
    The Govt. may care to carry out an investigation also as to why all investigations and "reviews" take so long and cost so much, only to produce a report which says nobodys to blame, but that changes have been put in place to make sure it never happens again. Who's kidding whom?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 662.

    any body would think this is the only kid murdered in london ever...what about the white lad butchered by blacks in 1981 in se8 nothings ever done to find his killers.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 661.

    He did say that this is what they always did, so it wasn't a special case unique to Lawrences.

    I'm quite fed up with all the special attention on this case, theres racist attacks on whites by blacks, on blacks by asians. Anything you can think of , it goes on, no one group deserves special protection. One killing is just as bad as the next killing nevermind the motivations.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 660.

    635. Notjustme - "Had Stephen been a white, middle class girl attacked by known criminals I wonder if the investigation would have been so poor in the 1st place, never mind her family investigated when they raised issue?..."

    If that were the case I doubt we would have even heard of her. Racially motivated crime only occurs in one direction, didn't you know that?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 659.

    The police didn't bother with perpetrators for so long because their fathers were influential people..

    The police are corrupt. I hear stuff in my area that they get paid off by local drug gangs to turn a blind eye.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 658.

    For a person to be murdered is tragic. Whoever they are.

    However, I've got to wonder how this sotry, or a new story related to it, is STILL open and running. It seems to have been in the news in some capacity almost constantly for several years.

    Another question: when his name seemed to have been changed to Murderedblackteenagerstephen Lawrence, wasn't that a tad racist?

  • Comment number 657.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 656.

    170.
    FichtHeit


    "Remember: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

    The police and the government will be tapping your phone and installing hidden cameras in every room in your house - presumably you'd be OK with that?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 655.

    Now that we know the NSA and GCHQ are hoovering up all of our Facebook posts, emails, website visits, phone calls, text messages, Skype chats etc etc, it's not reassuring to be told by William Hague that "if you've not committed any crimes, then we've nothing to worry about".

    This being a perfect example of why we have reason to be incredibly worried. The Lawrences hadn't committed any crime.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 654.

    CHINKINTHEARMOUR, as i have said in earlier posts, you seem to have a great insight into police racism, corruption etc, and again I ask you for you personal experience of this, because unless you can come up with some concrete evidence and not hearsay, innuendo and Guardian column writers, then you are just misguided or working to your own agenda, which is is it Sir.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 653.

    In cases like this, surely it's usual to investigate the possibility that the victim, or his family, had drug or political activity issues. This might not mean these questions were meant to smear the Lawrences, but to elimimnate reasons. We only have this man's word on that: is he being paid by channel 4& the guardian?

    That said, these allegations must be fully investigated without prejudice.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 652.

    Muggings, burglaries and even rapes are being written off by police who wrongly record that no crime has taken place, the report says."

    "One in four violent criminals is cheating justice by escaping with a caution, magistrates warned yesterday."

    We need whistleblowers more than ever...

  • Comment number 651.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 650.

    This was one of the most high profile murders in recent history which no doubt was discussed at Government level, we are told a full investigation was held into the Police handling of this case. We are now being told all the people at the top of Government and Police knew nothing, please we're not all idiots!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 649.

    sorry peter so have hundreds of other poor people been murdered for there colour/race/on both sides , do we enquire into every race related death or just one that suits the anti police brigade. its old news and absolutly no good can come of keeping stiring this pot. unless of course you make a living from it .

 

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