The head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has apologised to the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence for the police watchdog’s part in prolonging the “family’s search for the truth”.
IPCC chair Dame Anne Owers said a review by Mark Ellison QC, published on Thursday, made it clear that a 2006 IPCC investigation was “wrong” to conclude there was no evidence to suggest Scotland Yard withheld information.
That information, in relation to corruption, was kept from a previous investigation, the Macpherson inquiry, into Stephen’s death.
Dame Anne said last night: “I fully recognise this has prolonged by many years the Lawrence family’s search for the truth about the failed investigation into their son’s murder.
“I have today written to Baroness Lawrence and Mr Lawrence to apologise for our part in this.”
In another day of dramatic developments surrounding the Lawrence scandal, the head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terror unit was moved to a non- operational role in the wake of revelations concerning his links to undercover operations and the investigation into Stephen’s murder.
Commander Richard Walton has been temporarily removed from his post as head of the counter-terrorism command SO15 following the publication of the Ellison review.
Following Scotland Yard’s decision, Mr Walton said: “I welcome any scrutiny of my role in these events over more than 16 years ago, including in the forthcoming public inquiry.”
Mr Ellison revealed that an undercover officer – known as N81 – held a meeting in 1998 with Mr Walton, who was then an acting detective inspector working on Scotland Yard’s Lawrence review team, responsible for making submissions to the Macpherson inquiry. N81 infiltrated a group in the late 1990s, which then sought to influence the Lawrence family campaign to further its own agenda.
Feedback from N81 to his unit, the Special Demonstrations Squad (SDS), touched on personal details concerning the Lawrence family, such as the separation of Stephen’s mother and father, Doreen and Neville.
A file note from a detective inspector within the SDS, Bob Lambert, said Mr Walton had been able to “increase his understanding of the Lawrences’ relationship with the various campaigning groups” which would be of “great value as he continued to prepare a draft submission to the inquiry on behalf of the commissioner”.
Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Paul Condon, who held the top post at Scotland Yard between 1993 and 2000, backed plans for a wider public inquiry into the activities of police moles.
In a statement he added: “I confirm and restate the comments I made in the House of Lords last month – that at no stage did I ever authorise, or encourage, or know about any action by any undercover officer in relation to Mr and Mrs Lawrence or their friends or supporters or the Macpherson inquiry hearings. Had I known, I would have stopped this action immediately as inappropriate.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said the Lawrence family have “suffered far too much”, while current Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe admitted that corruption claims around the case constituted one of the worst days of his career.