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Thursday, 8 July, 2004

Met. Chief to retireĀ 

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens is to retire in January, after five years in the job.

However Sir John, the country's most senior police officer, will complete the two major and highly sensitive investigations he is leading before he leaves his post; the inquiry into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and into allegations of collusion between security forces in Northern Ireland and loyalist paramilitaries.

Sir John took over a bruised Metropolitan Police force labelled "institutionally racist" over the way it handled the investigation into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. He leaves the force in better shape, though it faces new challenges in tackling the threat from terrorists without damaging relations with Asian and Middle Eastern communities in Britain.

He took the job of Commissioner in February 2000, having previously been the Met's Deputy Commissioner since May 1998. Sir John began his 41-year police career with the Met, with subsequent posts including Assistant Chief Constable of the Hampshire Constabulary, Deputy Chief Constable of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, and Chief Constable of Northumbria Police.

As well as his long-running, multi-stage inquiry into alleged collusion in Northern Ireland, in 1996 Sir John was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the National Criminal Intelligence Service involving the corrupt misuse of telephone tapping intelligence. As a result of that investigation he made 98 recommendations, all of which were accepted and implemented by the Government.

He has also worked as one of HM Inspectors of Constabulary with responsibility for the North East, the National Crime Service, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and with national responsibility for crime.

Speaking to Today, Sir John said that there had been considerable successes during his time as the head of the Met but that he is haunted by the Damilola Taylor case - by the fact that the parents and community of the murdered 10-year-old have not had justice. He also warned about the threat from terrorism but said that a balance is required over the level of security put in place.

Talking about his impending retirement, Sir John told the programme: "When I was appointed at 57 people were saying I was too old to do the job, now I'm 61 and people are saying 'maybe you could do a bit more' - that's a great triumph."

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