Stephen Lawrence police corruption allegations lead to calls for investigation

Friday, June 28, 2013

Home Secretary Theresa May
Image: UK Home Office.

The mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence met with Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May to discuss the investigation of claims that the police attempted to collect evidence from the Lawrence family in order to smear them. Theresa May had previously announced Monday the allegations would be investigated as part of two ongoing inquiries, but representatives of the Lawrence family demanded an independent public inquiry into the events.

Doreen Lawrence said in the meeting May had said "all options are open". Lawrence said the inquiry "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 [...] I think unless we have a public inquiry that goes through the whole thing, we will never get to the bottom of it".

Stephen Lawrence was stabbed in London in 1993 by a gang of white teenagers while he waited for a bus. Lawrence's killers were not convicted for eighteen years; failures in the police investigation led to an inquiry led by Sir William Macpherson that found the police to be "institutionally racist".

The allegations regarding the Lawrence investigation were revealed on Monday by The Guardian and Channel 4's Dispatches programme, who interviewed Peter Francis, a former undercover officer with the Special Demonstration Squad.

While a member of the undercover squad, Peter Francis posed from 1993 to 1997 as an anti-racist campaigner and infiltrated a number of left-wing protest groups. Francis claims anti-racist campaigning after the death of Stephen Lawrence was considered by some in the Metropolitan Police to be a potential source for rioting and public disorder similar to the riots in Los Angeles riots in reaction to the treatment of Rodney King by police.

Francis said "there was almost constant pressure on me personally to find out anything I could that would discredit [the Lawrence family] campaigns."

Stephen Lawrence's father, Neville, expressed anger at the police over the allegations that they set out to collect evidence to smear his family: "It is unthinkable that in the extremely dark days and months after my son's murder that my family were subject to such scrutiny".

Neville Lawrence also called for an independent inquiry: "I understand that the home secretary has announced that she will extend the inquiries of Mark Ellison QC and Operation Herne, I would like to make it clear that I find this completely unsatisfactory." He added: "I am convinced that nothing short of a judge-led public inquiry will suffice and I have no confidence that the measures announced today [Monday] will get to the bottom of this matter."

Stephen Lawrence's mother Doreen said she was "surprised and shocked" by the idea that the police were collecting intelligence on the Lawrence family: "They put all the resources into monitoring what the family and what the campaign was doing rather than investigating Stephen's murder".

David Cameron has expressed support for the Lawrence family: "Let's be clear, these are absolutely dreadful allegations and we can only think of the Lawrence family, who have suffered so much already from the loss of their son. To hear that, potentially, the police that were meant to be helping them were actually undermining them — that's horrific". Cameron said he hopes investigations in to the allegations will happen "rapidly".

London mayor Boris Johnson also expressed disapproval with the alleged actions of the police: "I cannot think of anything more despicable than the police attempting to smear Stephen Lawrence's family. If there was a campaign to discredit those seeking justice, we need to know what the orders were and who gave them. We need to know whether there was any criminal activity, and we shouldn't rule out the possibility of criminal proceedings."

Greater Manchester Police have announced they are conducting inquiries into allegations that Special Branch police in Manchester sent a request for information on those participating in the Macpherson Inquiry.