Call for publication of 'police killing' report

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A secret report into the suspected police killing of an anti-racism campaigner 30 years ago must be published, Sir Paul Stephenson said today.

The Scotland Yard boss said there would have to be "overwhelming" reasons not to release an internal inquiry into the death of Blair Peach.

He told a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) that a review of the documents would take place to consider whether any censorship was required before they were published.

Speaking at City Hall in central London, he said: "The case was brought to my attention during the intense scrutiny of G20.

"Given the time that has passed since Blair Peach's death, I have asked for a detailed review of the reasons why we should not release the report.

"I want to make it clear my starting point is a desire to publish unless there are reasons that cannot be overcome of fairness, legality and so on."

Mr Peach, 33, a New Zealander, is widely suspected to have been killed by a police officer at a demonstration 30 years ago.

He died from a blow to the head at a demonstration against the National Front in Southall, west London, in April 1979.

His partner, Celia Stubbs, 68, who travelled to City Hall from her Brighton home, burst into tears after the announcement.

Speaking outside the meeting, she said the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in the City of London was a catalyst for the decision.

She said: "I am just totally bowled over. I have just been really cynical about it and I really did not expect a result today. I have been proved wrong."

Ms Stubbs was joined by Mr Peach's brother Philip, 67, who also welcomed the move.

He said: "This is something that happened 30 years ago, but it is quite clear Sir Paul Stephenson, and other members, have given this enormous support."

Members of the MPA unanimously supported a decision to review the documents with a view to publishing them before the end of the year.

They were created by Commander John Cass, a former senior officer at the Met's internal complaints department.

He was reported to have recommended the prosecution of police officers, although no charges were ever brought.

Jenny Jones, who led calls for the document to be published, said publication would "bring the whole thing to a close" for the family.

She said: "The Met is a public body and should be held to account by the public. It is absolutely ludicrous that it has been kept quiet for so long.

"It seems to me there is a public interest in just being open and honest about this.

"This will do more for the Met's reputation than keeping secret something that should have been published 30 years ago."

Deborah Coles, of campaign group Inquest, said: "We welcome the lifting of the veil of secrecy surrounding this death that has undermined family and public confidence in the Metropolitan Police.

"The challenge now is to ensure that there is as full disclosure as legally possible and that reasons are given for any redactions given ongoing public concern about this process.

"It was the negative experience of Blair Peach's family and friends with the investigation and inquest system that led them to join with others to set up Inquest in 1981.

"Sadly, the need for the organisation remains as urgent today. Non-disclosure of evidence has been one of the most problematic issues following deaths in custody and has seriously undermined family and public confidence in the police complaints system.

"The whole basis on which the Cass report has been withheld from the Peach family for 30 years has been discredited and it is accepted by Government that the results of investigations into deaths following police contact are now disclosed to families."