Right of Reply: Peter Moorhouse

The chairman of the Police Complaints Authority responds to criticism of their inquiry into the Lawrence case
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THE INDEPENDENT'S criticisms of the PCA are surprising as when we supervised the investigation in 1997, and produced a summary report, it was described by The Independent as "a damning indictment of the inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen".

Your recent editorial omitted to say that charges would also have been preferred against four other officers involved, had they not retired. But we are not permitted to bring discipline charges against resigned or retired officers, under existing regulations.

The suggestion that "internal investigations are not tough enough to control a force that can mishandle witnesses, lose or destroy evidence, and ignore promising leads" is questionable. The authority would have charged all five senior officers for these very failings.

Effective liaison with victims of crime has long been a problem for the police service. The investigation concluded that the failures in this case lay with senior officers conducting the murder inquiry. It would be wrong to bring disciplinary action against inexperienced junior officers who attempted and failed to provide effective family liaison in this case.

The discipline review had to decide whether officers who took part in the murder inquiry breached the Police Discipline Code. The system demands that charges must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The authority has pressed since 1991 for changes to the discipline system, including reduction in the standard of proof, and many of the changes are due to be implemented this April.

Criticise the legal framework within which the PCA must work, and you would have our support. But to criticise us for working within the legal framework laid down by Parliament is unjustifiable.