Leveson Inquiry: Lawrence leak had 'negative effect'

A leaked story about the reopened investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence had a "negative" effect, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.

Det Ch Insp Clive Driscoll said a Daily Mail story about advances in the investigation followed a meeting with Mr Lawrence's mother and lawyers.

A witness was approached by a suspect after the story was published, which may have been a coincidence, he said.

He said it undermined the police's relationship with the Lawrence family.

In November 2007, he briefed Mr Lawrence's mother on the investigation in the presence of her lawyers, several members of his team, and a representative from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr Driscoll told the inquiry into press standards that hours later he received a call saying the Daily Mail would be running a story the next day.

"The information within the Mail certainly was the information we gave to that meeting, with the exception of the terminology used," he said.

Public confidence

He said reporter Stephen Wright told him that no police source had been involved but it nonetheless undermined the police relationship with the Lawrence family and it was "like going back to square one".

He said he could not understand why Mr Wright would have done anything that could potentially undermine the Metropolitan Police's investigation.

Mr Driscoll also said a suspect visited one of the witnesses in the case after the article was published, which he said could have been a coincidence, "but I am a police officer so I'm cynical at birth," he said.

It was essential that the police had the confidence of the public, Mr Driscoll said.

"Without confidence the police are about as much use as a chocolate teapot, because we need people to feel confident to come to us, we need people to be able to tell us their story.

"So it had a negative effect on the investigation. It had a negative effect on my team. It had a negative effect on how we reacted to our partners.

"I don't know who leaked this, so therefore everyone became a suspect and that is the negative effect that it has."

'No trickery'

After the article in the Daily Mail on 8 November, Mr Wright was spoken to and did not publish a second story, Mr Driscoll said.

Later, Mr Wright told the inquiry he had informed the Met Police press office about the original story and could not remember anyone objecting to it.

"We would not run that story had the police objected and never would we have run the story if we thought it was going to jeopardise the police investigation in any way," he said.

Asked whether the source was a police officer, he said he would rather not say.

"I am concerned in the current climate… I have current colleagues in the CRA who have been receiving intimidating phone calls from a certain department in the Met Police Service about who sources are. I am very concerned indeed about these matters."

Mr Wright said there was "no trickery" in his reporting.

"It's not just what you are told and print which makes an impression on police officers - it's what you are told and don't print, and that's a sign of trust.

"Word gets around quite quickly, if you are perceived to be a good journalist, someone who can be trusted, and obviously the opposite applies too.

"We think very carefully about what we write and what we publish."

Grade system

Mike Sullivan, crime editor of The Sun, told the inquiry the Metropolitan Police had a system of grading reporters depending on how favourable their stories were.

"I don't know how they do that, on what basis they make their judgment, I don't suggest it's a top 20, who is that person who is going to be more favourable to the Met than others, but I was told that system existed and I quite believe it," he said.

Mr Sullivan, who was arrested in January over alleged corrupt payments, told the inquiry he believed that he would have been one of a circle of reporters Scotland Yard's communication director Dick Fedorcio would have trusted to talk to.

Mr Fedorcio has been on extended leave since August 2011 while his links to a former News of the World executive who was hired by Scotland Yard are investigated.

The Leveson Inquiry has two parts, the first of which is examining relations between the press, politicians and police, and the conduct of each.