Source of the Lawrence leak was Whitehall `own goal'

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The Independent Online
THE LEAK of the inquiry report into the death of Stephen Lawrence came from within the Government, the Home Secretary disclosed yesterday.

In a highly embarrassing admission, Jack Straw told Parliament that the source of the leak was likely to have been one of the officials or advisers within his department. Mr Straw announced that an indepen-dent inquiry into the "deplorable" leak of the Lawrence Report had not identified the individual responsible.

However, it had found that the "most likely route" for the breach of confidentiality was from within Government rather than the Macpherson inquiry team or the report's printers.

Mr Straw said that the only other minister with relevant access to the material was Paul Boateng, a Home Office minister, but Mr Straw accepted his minister's assurances that he was not responsible. With Mr Boateng cleared, the spotlight falls on the small group of officials in the Home Office who also saw the report. Mr Straw refused to name them.

The Home Secretary provoked controversy in February when he sought an injunction attempting to stop a Sunday newspaper from publishing leaked extracts from the report.

It revealed that Sir William Macpherson of Cluny had found evidence of institutionalised racism in the Metropolitan Police in its handling of the Lawrence murder inquiry.

The Home Office injunction was granted but later partly lifted, allowing details of the report to be revealed three days before its official publication in the House of Commons.

A senior civil servant within the Cabinet Office was given the task of discovering how such a tightly controlled document could fall into the hands of journalists. Mr Straw said yesterday that despite intensive investigation, the inquiry had not been able to trace the exact source of the leak, although it was clear that it stemmed from a summary of the report that was circulated only within Whitehall.

The inquiry concluded that all appropriate security arrangements had been followed, including a ban on advance media briefings, and "no one was found who had unauthorised access to the material".

Sir Norman Fowler, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "The reply shows, predictably, that the two-month investigation utterly failed to reveal the identity of the leaker. What it does reveal, however, is that this was a deliberate leak from inside the Government itself. It means therefore that the Home Secretary sought an injunction on the media even though the information was deliberately leaked from inside the Government itself."

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Alan Beith, said: "The failure to identify who was responsible suggests that the inquiry was ineffectively carried out."