Lawrence blunder: 80 under guard for 80

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The Independent Online
EIGHTY PEOPLE, including an MP, are under police protection after the accidental publication of the names and addresses of informants who helped police investigating the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.

At least seven families from south-east London have asked Greenwich Borough Council, the local authority, to rehouse them because they fear assault and intimidation. One family has already been moved, while another has received hate mail. Scotland Yard has also helped to rehouse an unknown number of informants.

The disclosure came as the only police officer to face disciplinary action for his role in the Lawrence debacle appeared at a hearing yesterday. Detective Inspector Benjamin Bullock, who was second-in-command of the murder investigation, is accused of seven counts of neglect of duty.

In an extremely unusual move, Stephen's parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence, and their solicitor, Imran Khan, were allowed to attend the preliminary hearing of the tribunal, held in south London. But Mr Khan was refused permission to sit through the full hearing and address the disciplinary panel. Mr Khan said he was considering applying for a judicial review of the decision to bar him.

The hearing was adjourned until 21 June to give Det Insp Bullock and his lawyers time to prepare their defence.

The publication last week of Sir William Macpherson's inquiry into the police investigation of Stephen's murder was seriously marred by the accidental inclusion in the report's appendices of 40 names and address of police informants.

Hundreds of copies of the report were circulated, including some copies to representatives of the five white men suspected of carrying out the killing, the media, and the public. Many of the named informants lived on an estate linked to the five men accused of the murder.

Yesterday, the full repercussions began to emerge. Apart from the family that has already been moved, five others are in the process of switching houses, and two more have asked to be relocated outside the borough. Other residents have asked for improved security for their homes.

Clive Efford, the local Labour MP, is among those being given extra police protection after being identified as a potential target. He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "The police are keeping a close eye on people they consider to be vulnerable in the area and as someone who has a high profile here they are paying attention to me as well."

Harcourt Alleyne, Greenwich's director of racial equality, said: "There are many people who are fearful at the moment because their names might have been released, accidentally albeit, but they have reason to have fears for their safety and that of their children and others."

Lewisham Race Equality Council said yesterday that rumours were sweeping the area of further racist attacks by gangs from the Eltham area.

Increased activity by far-right extremists has also been detected outside London. In Swindon, British National Party activists have been trying to exploit people's fears over the arrival in their midst of refugee families.

A spokesman for Searchlight, the anti-fascist organisation, said many far-right groups were terrified of proposed government crackdown on racism.

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