THE father of murdered black student Stephen Lawrence has called for a judge-led inquiry into claims that undercover police officers were told to spy on his family and other campaigners seeking justice over his death, in the hope of finding information to smear them.
Neville Lawrence dismissed as “completely unsatisfactory” Home Secretary Theresa May’s announcement that she would extend two ongoing inquiries into alleged police wrongdoing to cover the allegations made by a former undercover officer, Peter Francis.
Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he was “personally shocked” by Mr Francis’s claim that, while infiltrating an anti-racist group in the 1990s, he was put under “huge and constant pressure” from superiors to “hunt for disinformation” to undermine those demanding a better investigation of the murder.
Mr Francis also said he was told to withhold information about his activities from the Macpherson Inquiry into the Met’s handling of the murder investigation.
Sir Bernard said: “If these allegations are true, it’s a disgrace, and the Metropolitan Police Service will apologise. Smearing the family of a murder victim would never be acceptable to me or my officers.”
Mrs May told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday that the allegations would be considered by an inquiry into the undercover operations of the Special Demonstration Squad in London in the 1980s and 1990s, led by Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon under the oversight of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), as well as a review of alleged police corruption in the original Lawrence inquiry, conducted by Mark Ellison, QC.
But in a statement issued from his home in Jamaica, Mr Lawrence said: “I would like to make it clear that I find this completely unsatisfactory. I am convinced that nothing short of a judge-led public inquiry will suffice and I have no confidence that the measures announced today will get to the bottom of this matter.”
Mr Francis’s claims surfaced as a result of a joint investigation into undercover policing by the Guardian and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme and are due to feature in a book being published today.
The former officer says he was told to dig up “dirt” on Neville and Doreen Lawrence shortly after Stephen, an 18-year-old architecture student, was killed in an unprovoked racist attack in south-east London in April 1993.
Mr Francis said he was also asked to target Duwayne Brooks, who witnessed the murder, and other campaigners for justice.
Responding to the news yesterday, Neville Lawrence said: “I am dismayed about the new information. I’ve always felt my family was under greater investigation than those guilty of killing my beloved Stephen.
“It is unthinkable that, in the extremely dark days and months after my son’s murder, my family were subject to such scrutiny.
“I’ve worked with the police since Stephen’s death in good faith to bring the perpetrators to justice. I feel betrayed by this latest news and it has taken away the faith I had started to build in the police.”
Prime Minister David Cameron described the allegations as “horrific” and vowed to “get the full truth out”.
Mrs May said she would be “ruthless” in purging the Metropolitan Police of any misconduct and made clear that prosecutions could follow the inquiries. But she resisted calls to hand the investigation into undercover policing over to the IPCC.
Sir Bernard said he was referring the allegations to the IPCC and had asked Mr Creedon to make them “an urgent priority”.