Police attack lawyer's link to TV film

Lawrence case: Controversial documentary drama was made by company operated by the family's QC and his wife
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The Independent Online
A TELEVISION drama about the murder of Stephen Lawrence was criticised yesterday for being partly made by the wife of the lawyer who represents the student's family.

Glen Smyth, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, expressed his concern that one of the programme's executive producers was Yvette Vanson, the wife of Michael Mansfield QC.

He claimed that her connection with Mr Mansfield, who represents the Lawrences, was not made clear in the programme, which he believed also distorted some of the facts.

According to Company House records the directors of Vanson Productions, the company that made the drama for Granada TV, are Mr Mansfield and his wife Yvette Vanson.

The film, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, broadcast last night, portrays the Lawrence family's five year battle for justice from the moment the black student was murdered by a racist gang in south east London in 1993.

Stephen's parents said the programme was powerful and shocking, but a good portrayal of their experience.

A damning report into the Met police's handling of the case will be published next week. Sir William Macpherson's inquiry will also make recommendations for purging the police of racism.

Mr Smyth, who represents the Met's rank and file, particularly criticised the film's opening sequence. Stephen and Mr Brooks are portrayed covered in blood with Mr Brooks telling the 999 operator that his friend has been stabbed.

Mr Smyth said that officers at the scene told the public inquiry they were at first unaware of the extent of Stephen's injuries and were told that he had been hit on the head with an iron bar. He said the film did not show the off-duty police officer who was first on the scene and tried to help Stephen.

A Granada spokesman said: "We believe it is faithful to the truth in laying out the experiences of the Lawrences and the feelings they had about the whole issue."

Ian Blair, the Chief Constable of Surrey, urged colleagues to show "real humility" in the face of the inquiry report. He said the "canteen culture" of the police was like an anvil - old-fashioned, almost obsolescent and totally resistant to the beatings it has received. The police had to modernise its approach drastically to meet the demands being placed on it.

t Stephen's father, Neville Lawrence, told a jury yesterday that Nation of Islam members - some of whom allegedly attacked police at the inquiry into his son's death - were "peaceful" people.

His evidence was read at the trial of Rasaki Yesufu-Muhammad, 29, who denies a charge of affray. He is said to have been part of an "angry baying mob" of Nation members who allegedly attacked police officers in a bid to force their way into the meeting.