Stephen Lawrence officer had 'case to answer' over undercover meeting

Stephen Lawrence
Image caption Stephen Lawrence was 18 when he was killed in a racially-motivated attack

An ex-Met Police commander would have had to answer a case for misconduct after meeting an undercover police officer during the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the police watchdog has said.

Richard Walton met the officer in 1998, allegedly obtaining information about the family and their supporters.

The watchdog said he would have faced a disciplinary hearing but had retired.

Mr Walton said the Met had rejected the watchdog's findings and "did not plan to bring misconduct proceedings".

In January lawyers for Stephen's father Neville Lawrence unsuccessfully urged the force to halt Cdr Walton's retirement.

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Mr Walton was temporarily moved from his job leading the counter-terrorism command in 2014, following the publication of the report by Mark Ellison QC into possible corruption and undercover policing linked to the Stephen Lawrence investigation.

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Image caption Former Commander Richard Walton retired from the Met in January

Stephen was 18 when he was stabbed to death in April 1993 by a gang of white youths in Eltham, south-east London.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) examined allegations that Mr Walton, then an acting detective inspector, met an undercover officer known as N81.

'Very serious public concern'

He allegedly "obtained information pertaining to the Lawrence family and their supporters, potentially undermining the inquiry and public confidence".

The IPCC said if the fact the senior Met officer met the undercover officer had become public at the time, it "might well have caused very serious public concern".

The commission also looked into the role played by former Det Insp Robert Lambert, former Commander Colin Black and two other officers in arranging that meeting.

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Image caption Gary Dobson (l) and David Norris (r) were found guilty of murder in 2012

It found only Mr Lambert had potentially "played a part" and would have faced disciplinary proceedings if he too had not retired.

The other former officers, including former Commander Colin Black, were found to have no case to answer.

IPCC deputy chair Sarah Green said: "The force's reputation may have suffered immense damage had the meeting become public knowledge at the time.

"The IPCC found that Robert Lambert and Richard Walton both had a case to answer for discreditable conduct in that their actions could have brought the force into disrepute.

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Image caption Neville Lawrence said it was "wrong" Commander Walton would avoid disciplinary action

"As neither of the men are now serving police officers, it is not possible for misconduct proceedings to take place to determine whether or not the case would be proven."

On the IPCC's findings Mr Walton said: "It has taken the IPCC two years to investigate a single meeting I attended as a sergeant 18 years ago.

"The report makes clear that no information was passed to me about either the Lawrence family or its campaign. The Met formally rejected the IPCC's findings about me and did not plan to bring misconduct proceedings.

"In making its finding the IPCC has failed to understand racist crime and violent public disorder in London in 1998.

"The public have a right to be protected from groups who commit serious violent disorder. I have always made that my priority."

In a statement Mr Lawrence said the report "makes it clear that my family were wrongly spied upon" but spoke of his frustration that Mr Walton would avoid any disciplinary action.

"The police and the IPCC should have ensured that this investigation was concluded in good time to ensure that former Commander Walton could not have avoided disciplinary proceedings", he said.

In 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of murdering Stephen and jailed for minimum terms of 15 years and two months and 14 years and three months respectively.

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