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
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn