UK

Stephen Lawrence inquiry calls: All options open, says May

  • 27 June 2013
  • From the section UK

The mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence - who is calling for a public inquiry into claims of a police smear campaign - says the home secretary has told her "all options are open".

Doreen Lawrence, speaking after meeting Theresa May, said: "I want answers."

The Home Office said Mrs May would "reflect" on how to "get to the heart of all outstanding questions".

Labour said it now backed Mrs Lawrence's call for a public inquiry, with the full power to investigate.

It comes after former police officer Peter Francis said he posed as an anti-racism campaigner after the murder and was asked to find "dirt" on the family.

'Very promising'

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

A number of suspects were identified 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 crime.

Mrs Lawrence, standing outside the Home Office after the "very promising" meeting, said that, "for the past 20 years", the family had been "talking about corruption and we have undercover officers trying to smear our family".

"I want answers," she added

"I want to know who was the senior officer who signed that off."

Mrs Lawrence, who was accompanied in the meeting by her lawyers and Stephen's brother, Stuart, said this week's revelations had made her "feel quite sick to the stomach because I think it's the last thing I expected".

Any review "should be open and not behind closed doors so that we can hear once and for all exactly what was going on after Stephen was murdered," she said.

Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence was killed at a bus stop in south-east London in 1993

"I think unless we have a public inquiry that goes through the whole thing, we will never get to the bottom of it."

She had "made my point quite clear and so did our legal representatives," she added.

Mrs Lawrence said the home secretary had told her "all options are open".

Her lawyer, Imran Khan, said the home secretary had "gone away to consider" the points made "and what the family hope is that she'll be agreeable to holding a public inquiry in due course".

Another meeting between Mrs May and Mrs Lawrence and her lawyers is planned, although a date has not yet been set.

The Home Office said in a statement that Mrs May was "grateful to Doreen and Stuart Lawrence and their representatives for coming to the meeting today".

"The home secretary understands that these fresh allegations have only added to the suffering of the Lawrence family.

"She will now reflect on the best and quickest way to get to the heart of all outstanding questions and will speak to the Lawrence family very soon."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Labour now backed a public inquiry "to get publicly to the full truth of what went wrong in the Stephen Lawrence case".

"The allegations about smearing the family, covert recording of interviews with Duwayne Brooks, and corruption are sufficiently serious in a case which has been so important for confidence in policing that much more needs to be done to get quickly to the truth," she said.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has said he will be meeting Mrs Lawrence and Mr Khan at New Scotland Yard on Friday.

He revealed, while being questioned by the London Assembly's police and crime committee, that Mr Khan had written to him asking "12 or 13 questions", adding that he would "answer them as far as possible".

'Outrageous' document

Former undercover officer Mr Francis has told the Guardian and Channel 4's Dispatches programme that, working as part of the Metropolitan Police's Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), he was pressured to find "any intelligence that could have smeared the campaign".

That included whether any of the family were political activists, involved in demonstrations or drug dealers, he said.

Mrs May announced on Monday that the claims would be investigated by two existing inquiries, those of:

  • Barrister Mark Ellison QC, who is examining police corruption during the original investigation into the killing
  • Operation Herne, an investigation into undercover policing at the Met, led by the chief constable of Derbyshire Police, Mick Creedon, and partly overseen by the police watchdog

Mr Hogan-Howe told the London Assembly committee he had asked Mr Creedon to "prioritise" the Lawrence allegations and thought the two inquiries would get to the bottom of them.

He said he was "shocked" by the latest smear claim and said, if it turned out to be true, "then it will be a disgrace".

"I don't think it's for me to call for a public inquiry," he added.

"I'm confident what's set up will work so therefore I can hardly call for a public inquiry to substitute for it."

Meanwhile, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has said it is looking into claims its Special Branch sent a request in August 1998 to all divisions asking for information about "groups or individuals" expected to attend the Macpherson Inquiry into the handling of Stephen's murder.

National Black Police Association president Charles Crichlow told the Daily Mirror the "outrageous" document "sent a chill through me" when he saw it at the time.

GMP Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said officers were trying to find the memo, but said it was likely to be a "routine" document making reference to the policing of the inquiry, which was held in Manchester.

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