Tribunal drops Lawrence case neglect charge

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THE ONLY police officer facing serious disciplinary charges over the bungled Stephen Lawrence murder investigation has had four counts of neglect of duty dropped, it was announced yesterday.

Detective Inspector Ben Bullock, who was second-in- command of the murder inquiry, still faces three further counts at an internal police disciplinary hearing.

Last month the tribunal was given 28 days to complete the hearing before Det Insp Bullock retires. The three-strong tribunal decided that there was "no case to answer" on more than half the charges. The decision to drop them was decided yesterday after a submission by Det Supt Bullock's lawyers on Tuesday.

At the opening of the tribunal Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which is representing Det Insp Bullock, described some of the charges as a "desperate" attempt to find wrongdoing.

The charges follow Sir William Macpherson of Cluny's report, which accused Det Insp Bullock of failing to follow up vital evidence on the murder of the black teenager in 1993.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said yesterday: "Following defence submissions on Tuesday, the independent Police Complaints Authority disciplinary tribunal hearing the case against DI Ben Bullock has decided that there is no case to answer on four of the charges of neglect of duty."

Det Supt Bullock put in his retirement papers on 25 June, at the start of the full disciplinary hearing, giving notice of his decision to leave the force within 28 days.

The Metropolitan Police Federation said he had been advised by doctors to quit because of failing health.

Det Insp Bullock postponed his retirement after 30 years in the Met to contest the case, but in a statement at the beginning of the tribunal said he had become so exasperated with delays and legal challenges by the Lawrences' lawyers that he was giving notice to retire.

He said the "last straw" was a decision by Imran Khan, the solicitor representing Doreen and Neville Lawrence, to obtain a last-minute court injunction to allow the lawyer to represent his clients at the tribunal, thereby delaying the opening.

A High Court hearing yesterday awarded costs against Mr Khan's firm for the legal work needed to contest the judicial review. His company was ordered to pay the Metropolitan Police pounds 3,600 and the tribunal lawyer's pounds 8,000.