Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has urged a former undercover officer who claimed there were attempts to smear Stephen Lawrence’s family to speak to police.
• Scotland Yard has urged a former undercover police officer to approach authorities about his claim of a smear campaign conducted against Stephen Lawrence’s family
• Peter Francis, who worked as a police mole in the 1990s, has refused to speak to police in favour of talking to media outlets and a potential public inquiry
Peter Francis, who worked as a police mole in Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad in the 1990s, has so far refused to speak to investigators looking at the activities of undercover officers.
He claimed that undercover teams were told to look for information they could potentially use to smear the Lawrence family as they campaigned for justice for their murdered son.
Today Sir Bernard said: “One of the critical things is to talk to Peter Francis. We’ve seen him appear on television. We know he’s talked to journalists. It would be really helpful if he talked to the investigators because that will help to get to the bottom of it.”
But Stephen’s mother Doreen Lawrence has backed Mr Francis’s decision only to speak to a public inquiry, which she and the teenager’s father Neville see as the only way of getting to the truth.
Her lawyer Imran Khan said: “He should be giving evidence to a public inquiry not staying behind closed doors and speaking to police officers. That’s the whole point of calling for an inquiry.”
Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon is running an investigation, Operation Herne, into the activities of undercover police officers, and says he has prioritised the Lawrence smear claims.
In July he told MPs that his team found no evidence to back the smear allegations, although references were found to officers being deployed to look at supporters and campaigns around Stephen’s murder.
Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, he said: “There is nothing in Operation Herne which suggests any attempt whatsoever to do two things: firstly to be tasked against the Stephen Lawrence family, and secondly to besmirch the Stephen Lawrence family.”
Mr Francis has told The Guardian newspaper he will only give evidence to a public inquiry.
Police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission said it could not properly assess the claims without speaking to him.
IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass said on July 26: “I have written to Mr Francis to ask if he would be willing to speak to the IPCC. I have not yet had a response, so can only rely on his statements as reported in The Guardian that he is only willing to assist a public inquiry.”
As well as Mr Creedon’s investigation, a review looking at allegations of corruption in the original police investigation into Stephen’s death is being led by barrister Mark Ellison QC.
He is also considering Mr Francis’s claims and is expected to publish initial findings at the end of the year.