Lawrence Inquiry: Lawrence case lessons `are being ignored'

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SIR PAUL Condon, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was accused yesterday of ignoring the lessons of the Stephen Lawrence case after he criticised two of the key recommendations in the inquiry report and expressed disquiet about a third.

Dr Richard Stone, one of the four-strong Macpherson inquiry team, said there had been "quite a lot of hostility" to the team's findings and insisted that if any of the report's proposals was thrown out the whole inquiry would be undermined. Anti-racist campaigners also expressed dismay that the Commissioner had questioned the importance of extending the Race Relations Act.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, however, has already expressed doubt privately as to whether all of the inquiry's 70 recommendations are desirable or practical. The refusal to implement them could lead to a big dispute with the supporters of the Lawrence campaign and the inquiry team.

Earlier yesterday Sir Paul, whose force was severely criticised for the disastrous murder investigation into the stabbing of the black teenager, caused controversy after he told MPs of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that he could see no way of implementing Sir William's call to make it a crime to express racist behaviour or language in a private place. He argued that it would be very hard to reconcile with the right to free speech guaranteed in the European Convention of Human Rights. He said: "It will be explored and probably rejected as impractical."

He also warned he was uneasy over proposals to drop the double jeopardy principle, whereby a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. "I haven't yet found a way through this that I'm comfortable with," he told the committee. Ministers are known to share Sir Paul's concerns.

He went on to say that the arguments for bringing the police within the scope of the Race Relations Act were not clear-cut and although the move would increase police accountability, fears have been expressed that officers could be more reluctant to arrest people from ethnic minorities, fearing legal action.

The Government, however, has already said it intends to bring the police within the scope of the Act.

The National Assembly Against Racism said the Lawrence affair had underlined the need for extending the Act and it was disappointing that Sir Paul was "not prepared to learn the lessons".

Dr Richard Stone defended proposals to change the law to enable defendants to be tried twice for the same crime. He said: "Maybe the Court of Appeal could later have the power to open a case once only."

It was also disclosed yesterday that the Met are starting to use undercover black police officers - some from outside forces - to investigate fellow officers suspected of being racist.

t About 500 police cars in the Metropolitan area are being fitted with aircraft-style "black boxes" to help to reduce accidents. The devices will record the vehicle's speed to build up a picture of its movements in the lead-up to an accident.