Home Secretary Theresa May faces public inquiry over Lawrence family 'smear' accusations

Former undercover officer Peter Francis says he was told to find 'dirt' that could be used against family

Deputy Political Editor

The Home Secretary faced demands from MPs today to order a public inquiry into accusations that undercover police attempted to smear Stephen Lawrence's family and friends.

Theresa May announced that an examination by the QC Mark Ellison of claims that corruption hindered the original police response to the killing would be widened to cover the fresh allegations.

They would also be scrutinised by an inquiry led by the Derbyshire Chief Constable, Mick Creedon, in conjunction with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

In a Commons statement in which she promised "zero tolerance of police corruption and wrongdoing, Ms May said the rules governing the authorisation of covert operations would be tightened.

But MPs said the number of disclosures meant the time had come to order separate public hearings to establish the truth of the police handling of the murder investigation.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "Would it not be better to set out a clear and focused independent investigation into these allegations, which has a precise remit and also the powers to pursue both criminal and disciplinary proceedings?"

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: "I think the time has come to look seriously at a public inquiry into the use of undercover agents."

Clive Efford, the MP for Eltham, where the murder took place, called for a public inquiry into all the claims, including accusations of corruptions and attempts to smear the Lawrence family. He said: "We will only satisfy the public if that is done independently of the police."

Ms May replied that Mr Ellison's inquiry had been set up following consultation with the Lawrences and insisted he was fully independent.

The Home Secretary told the Commons that legislation would be brought in to ensure police received permission from the Office of Surveillance Commissioners for undercover deployments lasting more than a year.

Officers using pseudonyms would also require permission under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

She said: "We are determined to ensure we do constantly look at seeing whether any changes are needed to further enhance the oversight and the procedures under which undercover operations take place."

David Cameron said: "These are absolutely dreadful allegations and we can only think of the Lawrence family, who have suffered so much already from the loss of their son. To hear that, potentially, the police that were meant to be helping them were actually undermining them - that's horrific."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral