Lawrence officer to face tribunal

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The Independent Online
THE POLICE officer who was second-in-command of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation will face a disciplinary tribunal despite announcing his retirement, Scotland Yard said last night.

A spokesman said Detective Inspector Ben Bullock will go before a tribunal on 22 March, six weeks before his retirement date. He will be charged with seven counts of neglect of duty. The announcement was seen as a response to the outcry to news last week that Det Insp Bullock had submitted his retirement papers. He was the only serving officer that the Police Complaints Authority recommended for disciplinary action.

It is unprecedented for a tribunal date to be set so soon after a PCA recommendation. The Metropolitan Police is thought to have accelerated the process to satisfy demands for some kind of public retribution over the Lawrence case.

Det Insp Bullock, 49, is to retire on 2 May, after 30 years' service. If found guilty, he could be suspended or dismissed before then. It is understood his pension rights, thought to be worth pounds 25,000 a year, would not be affected.

Last week, Stephen's parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence, were said to be devastated at the prospect of every officer in the investigation escaping punishment. All the other senior officers have retired and are thus, according to the law as it stands, immune from disciplinary action.

The PCA called last week for the law to be changed. Jack Straw, Home Secretary, said he would consider recommendations by the Lawrence inquiry, due to issue its report next week.

The Yard spokesman said police had never ruled out disciplinary proceedings, despite Det Insp Bullock's impending retirement. "The charges against Mr Bullock have not been dropped. There is still something that can be done, which is to hold the tribunal before he leaves his job."

The Yard and the PCA took 10 months to agree to the wording of the charges against Det Insp Bullock. The PCA told him in March last year that it was recommending action against him. He denies any neglect of duty.

In a statement, Scotland Yard said: "As was made clear last Thursday, 14 January, the Metropolitan Police Service will continue with the disciplinary process against DI Ben Bullock even though he has given notice of his intention and entitlement to retire ... The tribunal to hear the charges of neglect of duty ... has now been set for March 22 this year."

The force said that it had informed Det Insp Bullock of the tribunal, made up of two PCA representatives and a senior Metropolitan Police officer.

It said that force solicitors were currently preparing the papers for the case and these will be served on Det Insp Bullock shortly. Det Insp Bullock will then have 14 days to respond to the charges, Scotland Yard said. It has said it has no option but to accept his retirement under current disciplinary regulations, despite the controversy surrounding the case.

Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993 in south-east London. Five white youths have been accused of the killing but none has been successfully prosecuted.