Reaction to undercover police inquiry

Key Points

  • Theresa May has announced a judge-led inquiry into the way the Metropolitan Police's undercover police officers operated during the investigation into Stephen Lawrence's murder
  • A review of the case - by the barrister Mark Ellison - found there were reasonable grounds to suspect that at least one detective on the team was corrupt
  • 18-year-old Stephen was stabbed to death by a group of up to six in an unprovoked racist attack as he waited at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22 1993
  • It took more than 18 years to bring two of his killers - Gary Dobson and David Norris - to justice
  • Mrs May has also said she wants a new offence of "police corruption"

    Welcome to the BBC's live coverage after Theresa May announced a judge-led, public inquiry after a review into the police team which investigated the murder Stephen Lawrence found at least one member was corrupt.


    The home secretary made the announcement in the House of Commons, after a review into the police's handling of the original case - published today.

    Theresa May

    This is Mrs May addressing the Commons.


    "Policing stands damaged today," Mrs May said. "Trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police and policing more generally is vital."


    Mrs May has also announced plans for a new offence of police corruption to be created. She said the government needed to take action for the sake of the Lawrence family.


    Stephen Lawrence 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. He was 18.

    Prime Minister David Cameron

    tweets: Like the Home Secretary, I find the conclusions of the Stephen Lawrence review profoundly shocking. It's important we have a full inquiry.

    Stephen Lawrence

    "Stephen Lawrence was murdered over 20 years ago and it is deplorable that his family have had to wait so many years for the truth to emerge," the home secretary said.


    Mrs May said a new law was needed "as it is untenable to rely on the outdated offence of misconduct in public office to deal with serious police corruption". It will be added to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, currently making its way through the Commons.


    A number of suspects were identified soon after Stephen's murder but it took more than 18 years to bring his killers to justice.

    Gary Dobson and David Norris

    In January 2012, Gary Dobson (left) and David Norris were found guilty of the murder by an Old Bailey jury after a review of the forensic evidence.


    In January 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of the murder by an Old Bailey jury after a review of the forensic evidence.


    Dobson and Norris were sentenced to minimum terms of 15 years and two months and 14 years and three months respectively.


    In his review, Mark Ellison QC said there was evidence to suspect one of the detectives on the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation - Detective Sergeant John Davidson - acted corruptly.


    Mr Ellison also found that an undercover officer worked as a "spy" in the "Lawrence family camp" during a judicial inquiry into the Metropolitan Police's handling of Stephen's murder.


    Dobson and Norris were among five white youths from Eltham in south-east London arrested shortly after Stephen was killed there.


    The Ellison review only found evidence of corruption by one officer, but it suggested lines of inquiry that might lead to evidence of corruption by others.


    A trial against three murder suspects - Neil Acourt, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson - began in April 1996 at the Old Bailey.


    But the case collapsed when Mr Justice Curtis ruled that identification evidence from Stephen's friend and witness Duwayne Brooks was inadmissible. All three are acquitted.


    In 2005, the government dropped the legal principle - double jeopardy - which prevented suspects being tried twice for the same crime.


    And in 2007, police said they were investigating new forensic evidence in the case following a police review. Evidence gathered at the time was examined, while investigators used new technology to find leads.


    Thanks to the ban on double jeopardy, in 2011 Dobson and Norris hear they may face a new trial - based on a review of forensic evidence.


    The Court of Appeal decided there was enough new and substantial evidence to allow Dobson's previous acquittal to be quashed. He and Norris went on trial in November 2011.


    During the trial of Dobson and Norris, the court heard that microscopic evidence found on their clothing linked them to the murder. The jury took two-and-a-half days to reach its decision.


    Dobson and Norris were both found guilty of murder at the end of a six-week trial into the death of Stephen.


    Mr Ellison's review - which was commissioned by the home secretary - concluded that information regarding undercover policing was withheld from the Macpherson Inquiry, which looked into the way the police had investigated Stephen Lawrence's death.


    Watch here as Home Secretary Theresa May announces her plans for a judge-led public inquiry.


    Responding to the report, the Met says it would be "highly inappropriate to comment upon it until we have taken the time to fully read, understand and assess its content". The force says the report "considers some very serious issues that whilst in the main are historical, could have a negative impact on confidence in modern day policing".


    Stephen Lawrence's father, Neville Lawrence, says the findings of a report are "21 years overdue".


    Last June, Peter Francis, a former officer with SDS, a top-secret squad within the Met Police's Special Branch, claimed he had been deployed undercover from September 1993 to find intelligence that might be used to "smear" the Lawrence family campaign. Mr Ellison said his review team was not able to make any "definitive findings" concerning Mr Francis's claims and a public inquiry might be better placed to do so.


    In his report, Mr Ellison found that both the Independent Police Complaints Commission 2006 report into corruption allegations and the Metropolitan Police's own review in 2012 were inadequate.


    Mr Ellison also found that Scotland Yard's record keeping on its own investigations into police corruption were a cause of concern, with key evidence the subject of mass shredding in 2003.

    Baroness Doreen Lawrence

    Stephen's mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence says of today's report: "I'm not shocked. It's something I suspected all along."

    Neville and Doreen Lawrence with Nelson Mandela

    The Lawrence family has campaigned long and hard for justice for Stephen, and even had help from the late Nelson Mandela.


    Stephen's parents Doreen and Neville held a press conference a month after the murder to complain not enough was being done to catch the killers. They met Nelson Mandela two years later.


    The campaigning parents launched a private prosecution in 1994 against Gary Dobson, Luke Knight and Neil Acourt - after the CPS declared there was insufficient evidence to bring charges. A private prosecution is the same as a standard criminal trial but not brought by the CPS. However, the case collapsed.

    Neville Lawrence

    Responding to today's announcement, Neville Lawrence says: "If all this had come out in the open when we first had the inquiry we wouldn't be talking about doing another one now."


    The Met says the Chief Constable of Derbyshire, Mick Creedon and the Deputy Commissioner, Craig Mackey, will later today publish a copy of Operation Herne's investigation into allegations made by former undercover officer Peter Francis.


    Neville Lawrence says: "Mark Ellison's report has simply corroborated what I have known for the past 21 years, and our long fight for truth and justice continues. I sat through the last inquiry but I have yet to decide whether I can go through another inquiry. I'm not sure I can go back to square one again."

    Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: Govt legislation to introduce new offence of Police Corruption likely within weeks #lawrence


    The home secretary says she has asked the director of the National Crime Agency (NCA) to look at how to investigate the allegations in Mr Ellison's findings.

    Leonard, Northampton

    emails: So yet another enquiry into police ethics. As a retired Met officer it does not surprise me. The integrity of many senior officers in the Met is no better now than it appears they were all those years ago. Results are everything regardless of how they are achieved. What is more worrying is that standards have now become so low that there is a big problem that will not emerge for many years to come, partly because of Home Office dictats.


    Responding to the home secretary's statement, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper asks Mrs May to make sure the NCA specifically looks at whether information was wilfully withheld from the Macpherson Inquiry and whether it was wilfully destroyed.


    Ms Cooper is also urging the home secretary to look at the implications for the public inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster, as victims' families have raised concerns about police surveillance and interception.


    The shadow home secretary says: "Twenty-one years later no one should underestimate the gravity of the institutional failure two decades ago but also the continued institutional failure to get to the truth and the seriousness of this."

    Dean, Hastings

    emails: Well this doesn't come as a shock. Police corruption is endemic and this will be just the tip of the iceberg. It is a shame that so many honest officers get tarred with the brush of the increasing few who are corrupt; or worse, that they themselves become 'bent' for the job. You only have to take a straw poll and see how much the public mistrust the police these days. What happened to a proper uniform and proper manners and respect for the public? I hope the inquiry is started soon and that it is widened to include police corruption nationwide.


    Ms Cooper says families "should never have to wait for decades to get to the truth".


    "Everyone must recognise that these tragedies will continue to cast a long shadow over the vital work that our criminal justice system needs to do and police need to do unless we get to the truth and get to justice," Ms Cooper adds.

    Diane Abbott MP

    : Chilling that Met used undercover officers to monitor Stephen Lawrence's family during their campaign for justice


    Dr Richard Stone, a member of the Macpherson Inquiry panel, says another inquiry is an "appalling idea". He adds: "I think that we were undermined all the way along the line and there's no reason to believe this inquiry wouldn't be led by the nose as well."

    Yvette Cooper

    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper says: "We owe it to the family but we also owe it to confidence in the justice system."

    Stuart Langley

    tweets: Absolute travesty that its taken 25 years to work out there were bent cops on the Stephen Lawrence case, was pretty obvious IMO.


    In a BBC interview, Dr Stone also says the Ellison Report reveals "appalling unprofessionalism" in the Met. "It happens in so many professionals but particularly, unfortunately, in the police," he says.


    Speaking in the Commons, former home secretary Jack Straw says institutional corruption may have been found within the Met if the inquiry into Stephen's death he announced in 1997 (the Macpherson inquiry) had received all the evidence.


    The Macpherson Inquiry, chaired by Sir William Macpherson, was intended to "identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially-motivated crimes", says Mr Straw.


    Doreen Lawrence's lawyer Imran Khan says confidence in policing is at "an all time low".


    Dr Stone says black and Asian people are now much more likely to be stopped and searched by the Met than they were at the time of the 1998 Macpherson Inquiry. He also says data on black and Asian officers is "appalling", with many "leapfrogged by white officers with less experience and less qualifications".


    Mr Khan describes the findings of the report as "the worst nightmare realised".


    Mr Khan says Stephen's mother Doreen doesn't necessarily want to keep fighting for information that should have been uncovered 20 years ago. "It's not something she wants to do, but she feels she's forced to do," he says.


    So this is will not be the first inquiry linked to the investigation into murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Macpherson report was published in 1999 - two years after an inquiry was announced. It contained 70 key recommendations, including measures aimed at improving accountability of the police.


    The Macpherson report branded the Metropolitan Police force "institutionally racist".

    William, Middlesbrough

    emails: The police have been out of touch for years with how to best service the public, they don't care about justice. They have an attitude and culture which is only self serving to themselves. They need to be held accountable to any independent body. I fear nothing will change

    Stephen Lawrence

    Last week saw the 15th anniversary of the publication of the Macpherson report. Doreen Lawrence said she believed parts of the police are still racist.

    Winifred, Leighton Buzzard

    emails: Enough of this now! It's gone on for nearly 18 years. This family has cost the country a fortune. Would we have had all this fuss if it was five black kids who murdered a white guy? No we would not!


    Mr Straw says the Met was reluctant about the Macpherson inquiry, which he initially believed was a "bureaucratic unwillingness" to accept scrutiny.

    Yvette Cooper MP

    tweets: Truth & justice needed for Lawrence family - & for the sake of confidence in vital work police do. No family should have to wait 21yrs

    Jack Straw

    Mr Straw says it's now clear there was probably dishonesty at the highest level of the force, which led it to refuse to offer evidence despite being required to do so.


    The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which has been at the centre of a raft of damaging allegations, will be scrutinised in the judge-led inquiry.


    But what exactly is the SDS?


    The SDS was an undercover unit formed by the Met's Special Branch, and operated between 1968 and 2008.


    SDS officers infiltrated and reported on groups linked to protests, but the squad's activities have been questioned repeatedly - including over sexual relationships engaged in by some officers with their targets.

    Simon, Devizes

    emails: Quite horrified at the comments of Winifred from Leighton Buzzard. Who is she to judge when enough is enough? "The family has cost the country a fortune". This is an appalling comment. Doreen Lawrence lost her son! This needs to go on until the truth fully emerges. And yes, institutional racism does play a part in this.


    Among the most striking revelations to emerge about the SDS were that the names of 42 dead children, born between 1940 and 1975, were used by SDS undercover officers.


    A report claimed last year that the earliest confirmed SDS officer to have used such an identity was in the field between 1976 and 1981.

    Keiran Pedley

    tweets: The Stephen Lawrence case gets more and more alarming by the day. It is important we keep digging though, however uncomfortable that may be


    In 2011, the Met launched Operation Herne into undercover police behaviour within the SDS. It followed disclosures about former Pc Mark Kennedy who was unmasked as an undercover officer who spied on environmental protesters as a long-haired dropout who had at least one sexual relationship with female activists.


    The home secretary has hinted that Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll, who helped secure convictions for Stephen's murder, could be used as an adviser or a member of further inquiries.


    Mr Driscoll, who is expected to leave the Metropolitan Police in June when he retires, led the inquiry that brought Gary Dobson and David Norris to justice in January 2012.


    Responding to the suggestion from Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley, the home secretary said: "You referred to a particular officer and the need to ensure that in further investigations police experience is not lost and knowledge of the case is not lost and that is a matter that has been drawn to my attention. It's a matter I am giving proper consideration to."


    To recap on the latest Stephen Lawrence developments: Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a judge-led public inquiry into the work of undercover police following a review into the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.


    The review, carried out by Mark Ellison QC, found a Met Police "spy" worked within the Lawrence camp while the Macpherson inquiry - which looked into matters arising from Stephen's death - was under way.


    The Ellison review came about after former Scotland Yard undercover officer Peter Francis said last year he was instructed in 1993 to find information that could discredit the Lawrence family.


    Among the findings of the Ellison review, which is published today, is that there were "reasonable grounds" to suspect corruption by former Met officer Det Sgt John Davidson. The review found no evidence of corruption by other officers, but did suggest lines of inquiry might be able to provide that.

    Simon, London

    emails: What point is there to another enquiry? Proper, transparent accountability is a minimum requirement. Real change is needed, if for nothing else than to protect the honest officers from distrust and abuse.

    Kim Roberts

    tweets: Hard to know when the trauma for Stephen Lawrence's family will end. Shocking conclusions from Ellison review ask yet more Q's of the Met.

    Neville Lawrence

    Stephen's father Neville Lawrence says he feels "vindicated" by the decision to hold a judge-led public inquiry into the work of undercover police investigating his son's murder. But he tells the BBC: "You shouldn't have to go through something like this twice."


    Former Scotland Yard undercover officer Peter Francis, who made damning allegations about the SDS, says he's delighted by the home secretary's decision to hold a public inquiry.


    "The public inquiry must investigate the work undertaken by police's Special Demonstration Squad and its undercover surveillance of political campaigns in general," Mr Francis says. "It should not be limited in relation to time or particular issues."


    Mr Francis says: "The truth about the tactics of undercover policing will only be revealed by way of a truly independent, public inquiry, which will require those involved to provide evidence under oath."


    "When the full truth comes out about the police's work and activities, across the UK, against political campaigns and protests since 1968, I think they will be very shocked," Mr Francis adds.


    London Lord Mayor Boris Johnson is to take time to "digest" the Ellison report in full. A spokesman for the mayor's office says: "The report contains profound and disturbing findings related to the Stephen Lawrence investigation and subsequent inquiries."


    "All allegations must be investigated fully and those responsible held to account," the spokesman at the mayor's office says. "We recognise the serious impact these findings could have on public confidence in the police, and it is essential we have a Met police that is trusted and respected by all Londoners."

    Imran Khan and Baroness Doreen Lawrence

    Doreen Lawrence's solicitor Imran Khan says nobody was held accountable in relation to the way in which police conducted the investigation in the first place.


    "There may yet be officers who are subject to criminal charges or misconduct charges" Mr Khan says. "So somebody may be held accountable in the future. Doreen doesn't raise her hopes of that because of the history - 20 years and not a single police officer held to account."

    Matt Prodger, BBC Home Affairs correspondent

    tweets: More from the Stephen #Lawrence report: "Intelligence (on corruption) was..treated by the MPS with near to absolute secrecy."

    And: The Met's own lawyers for the Macpherson Inquiry weren't even told of anti-corruption intelligence files. #Lawrence


    "What we hope is that a judge-led inquiry and the other measures that the home secretary has put forward will mean that individual officers and the organisation will be held accountable and that proper action will be taken," Mr Khan adds.


    Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation between September 1988 and March 2006, has emailed this response to the BBC: "I'm trying to understand what, if anything, new has been revealed in relation to an allegation that a Detective Sergeant John Davidson had acted corruptly."


    "This allegation was raised many years ago," Mr Smyth says. "If this allegation could be stood up it should have been acted upon then and there."


    "As for a spy in the camp, if this did in fact happen I was unaware of it as were all the officers involved at that time who I met and had contact with," he says. "I am still in touch with a member of the original investigation team. That person had no knowledge of such undercover activity has been shocked by the revelation."


    Mr Smyth adds: "The next question then is in what context did this 'spying' take place? What were the objectives? Were the motives behind the activity honourable? Finally corruption is not endemic. To have corruption and do nothing about would be a scandal. I was chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation and responsible on four separate occasions for police officers being prosecuted and imprisoned."


    Professor Simon Holdaway, an expert in race relations within police constabularies at Nottingham Trent University, was involved in the original Lawrence inquiry. He says today's report has revealed "shocking action" by the police.


    "The public inquiry which has been announced will deal with undercover policing, but concern should go much wider, to police race relations generally," Prof Holdaway says.


    "The inquiry will lead to public confidence in the police being damaged further," the professor adds. "Police failings revealed will be woven into a long history of poor relationships between the police and black people. That history is not about the past, it lives today, seeping away public trust in the police."

    Labour leader Ed Miliband

    tweets: Deeply shocking conclusions from the Ellison Review into Stephen Lawrence case. Important to get truth and justice for Doreen and family


    An update today from Operation Herne - a criminal and misconduct probe launched by the Met into undercover police operations - says it has found "no evidence" that a member of Scotland Yard's Special Demonstration Squad was tasked to smear Stephen Lawrence's family.


    However, it does say prosecutors are considering whether criminal charges can be brought over claims undercover officers engaged in inappropriate sexual relationships.


    Deputy Commissioner of the Met Craig Mackey says allegations in the Ellison report about Commander Richard Walton are "concerning".


    Mr Mackey says he's asked for Ellison's notes regarding Mr Walton and that he needs to make a "proper assessment" before reaching a view.

    Dave Dixon

    tweets: Stephen Lawrence 25 years. Hillsborough 21 years. A generation has passed. The wheels of justice turn very slowly sometimes.


    Commander Richard Walton is head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard. The Ellison review found that the undercover officer placed in the Lawrence camp held a meeting with then acting Detective Inspector Richard Walton, who had been seconded to the MPS Lawrence review team, responsible for making submissions to the Macpherson inquiry.


    Commenting on the impact the findings of the Ellison review must have had on the Lawrence family and Stephen's friend Duwayne Brooks, Mr Mackey said: "I understand that today they must feel that all the trust we have worked to build is shattered by what they have heard and read. As a police officer and a human being that's a terrible position to be in."

    Doreen Lawrence

    Stephen's mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence still feels "wounded" despite the decision to hold a judge-led public inquiry. She says she is "yet again having to fight for something that should have happened over 20 years ago".


    Labour is calling for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to be replaced in the wake of the Ellison report. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper says the IPCC is not good enough.


    "In those circumstances you need a system which can investigate very quickly, that can get to the truth quickly and make sure that justice is delivered," Ms Cooper says.


    "I think that system is still not strong enough and that is why I'm arguing for the IPCC to be replaced with a new independent police standards organisation that can make sure you can get to the truth much faster because I think that would be good for policing, good for public confidence and good for the families who are affected in these terrible cases," the shadow home secretary adds.

    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

    tweets: Findings of the Stephen Lawrence review are shocking. I'm thinking of my friend @DuwayneBrooks today. We must rebuild trust in the police


    We are now ending our live page covering the review of the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation. It has been a dramatic day in the House of Commons, where Home Secretary Theresa May announced a judge-led public inquiry into undercover police officers after the report found a "spy" worked within the Lawrence camp during a previous probe into the murder investigation.


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