Sir Paul's spin cannot alter the uncomfortable truth

Of all the players in the Lawrence case, it is the Met's commissioner who has most reason to sweat

GIVEN THE dreadful failings exposed by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the Metropolitan Police might have been expected to be awaiting its findings with some humility. Instead, in an attempt to duck one of the worst roastings of its 170-year history, the Met has embarked on a last-minute propaganda offensive.

The aim is to rubbish Sir William Macpherson's report in advance of publication later this month, and the results so far are a credit to the force's spin doctors. Over recent days, a rash of articles has appeared in newspapers traditionally sympathetic to the police, and further pieces are in the pipeline.

The message is always the same. The inquiry cannot hope to do justice to Neville and Doreen Lawrence - the parents of Stephen, the murdered black teenager - because it was hijacked by political activists hostile to the police and degenerated into a witch hunt intent on rooting out institutional racism.

Thus a columnist in The Times declared that the inquiry "has too much of the whiff of Salem to leave the unbiased anything but uneasy". The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, denounced the inquiry's "McCarthyite approach" and warned that "a separate agenda is being foisted on a largely unwitting public".

Is it an accident that the two newspapers are singing from the same hymn sheet? Within the past fortnight, Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has, at his own request, paid a visit to both The Times and The Daily Telegraph to brief editors and journalists about the Lawrence case.

But the propaganda war is not being waged only at the Commissioner's level. After months of confusion about how to respond to the criticisms heaped upon the Met, the main trade unions - the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents Association - have condemned the inquiry as partial and unfair.

Nor are police the sole combatants in this battle for hearts and minds, as was illustrated by events following The Independent's recent revelation that the Lawrences' solicitor, Imran Khan, and barrister, Michael Mansfield, will be censured by the inquiry for their role in the private prosecution of the murder suspects. On the day the article appeared, Mr Khan let it be known that the family had uncovered yet another potential scandal, namely that the detective in charge of the Lawrence murder squad, Superintendent Albert Patrick, was being investigated in relation to alleged corruption elsewhere in the force.

One effect of this disclosure was to take the heat off the two lawyers - although Scotland Yard then produced a trump card, announcing at a hastily arranged press conference that John Grieve, the highly respected head of its racial crimes unit, would be taking over from Mr Patrick.

Even the reviled suspects - Neil and Jamie Acourt, David Norris, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight - are jostling to have their say. Their parents have written to the makers of a television documentary, insisting that their boys are innocent.

But of all the players, it is Condon who is in the spotlight, and it is he who has most reason to sweat. He has staked his reputation, and his job, on the inquiry's outcome, pledging to resign if he is personally criticised. In an interview last week, however, he made it clear that he is not prepared to fall on his truncheon. "I should have the courage to see through the reforms that will no doubt come out of the inquiry," he told the interviewer, who observed that "there's a near missionary zeal about Sir Paul as he outlines the work he would like to do in 1999".

Other articles have reflected the arguments that Condon advances in private to rebut criticism of his officers. As an example of the supposedly shabby way that witnesses were treated at the inquiry, for instance, he cites the grilling of an off-duty constable, James Geddis, who stopped to help Stephen. However, as Mr Geddis acknowledged to the inquiry, he was bound by the same professional standards as his colleagues on duty. And, as he admitted, he did not administer first aid to Stephen, or even examine him to locate his wound.

The notion that police gave evidence in a hostile atmosphere - interrogated by McCarthyite lawyers, abused by spectators - is being propagated throughout the Met and repeated by commentators who never set foot in the inquiry chamber in south London. It is a complaint first made last month, although the hearings ended in July, and it is an absurd distortion of what went on.

Yes, there was tough questioning by the Lawrences' lawyers, but that was their job. This was a public inquiry into why police failed to catch a gang of racist killers, and many of the important answers surfaced in cross-examination. Yes, the atmosphere was tense at times, but spectators more often laughed than heckled, so surreal was some of the evidence. Was testifying at the inquiry really more intimidating for police than patrolling the rougher streets of London?

Sir Paul appears to think so. What exercises him more than anything else, though, is the prospect that the inquiry report will accuse his force of institutional racism - those two words that stuck in his gullet when he gave evidence to the inquiry himself.

In the current flurry of articles, friendly newspapers have gone out of their way to ridicule that charge. Jack Straw, though, has made it plain that he wants the inquiry to be a springboard for root-and-branch reform of the police. The Home Secretary has even asked Sir William to come up with a new definition of that prickly term, institutional racism.

Sir Paul would do better to acknowledge the gaping wounds exposed by the Lawrence case than to skulk around behind the scenes defending the indefensible. The inquiry was fairly conducted and, if the report reflects what it revealed, no amount of spinning now will make the slightest bit of difference.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?