Final Lawrence case detective to retire

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The Independent Online
THE ONLY detective to face serious disciplinary charges for the botched Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry told a police tribunal yesterday that it must complete his case within 28 days because he is retiring.

The ultimatum, made by Detective Inspector Ben Bullock, means that unless the tribunal completes within four weeks the hearing into seven counts of alleged neglect of duty, he will quit before a final decision can be made. The shock move to give 28 days' notice follows a week of legal wrangling with the Lawrence family lawyers.

The charges, brought by the Metropolitan Police, follow complaints by Stephen's parents, Doreen and Neville, and are seen by the family as one of the last chances to expose police incompetence. Det Insp Bullock, who denies the charges, sees it is a chance to clear his name.

He was accused in Sir William Macpherson's inquiry report of failing to follow up vital evidence about the racist murder of the black teenager in 1993. He was described in the report as working "in a position beyond his abilities".

Det Insp Bullock postponed his retirement after 30 years in the Met to contest the case, but in a statement yesterday said he had become so exasperated with delays and legal challenges by the Lawrences'lawyers that he was giving 28 days' notice to retire. He said the "last straw" was a decision on Monday by Imran Khan, the solicitor representing Mr and Mrs Lawrence, to obtain a last-minute court injunction to allow the lawyer to represent his clients at the tribunal, thereby delaying the opening.

The tribunal yesterday came to a compromise and agreed for Mr Khan to be allowed into the hearing to act as a "friend", which will enable him to advise Mr and Mrs Lawrence. A previous request to act as their legal adviser was rejected.

Det Insp Bullock said he reluctantly agreed to the move. But a statement on his behalf said: "He had made a supreme effort, in spite of his poor health, to face up to the charges, and now [feels]... other parties were determined to disrupt the proceedings, bringing the prospect of lengthy further delays."

The announcement is the latest twist in an increasingly acrimonious dispute between the detective, his supporters and the Lawrence family lawyers.

The tribunal believes it should be able to complete the hearing within four weeks unless further legal objections are made. If the tribunal decides Det Insp Bullock is guilty of neglect of duty it can reprimand him or force him to resign, but it cannot touch his pension.

A Scotland Yard statement said: "There is no police regulation or statute to prevent Det Insp Bullock from leaving the service unless he was suspended."

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which is representing Det Insp Bullock, described the officer as "disillusioned" by the recent legal action and said he was "very, very ill".