A new Macpherson-style inquiry should examine allegations that Metropolitan Police corruption derailed the hunt for Stephen Lawrence's killers, as well as fresh accusations of racism in the force, the shadow Home Secretary demanded last night.
The Independent uncovered fresh evidence last month that an officer who played a key role in the bungled police investigation into Stephen's murder had links to the criminal underworld. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is understood to be considering ordering a public inquiry into the conduct of the Lawrence investigation.
But the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, is urging Ms May to go further and order a wide-ranging public examination of the Met's progress in tackling prejudice since 1999, when the Macpherson inquiry concluded it was "institutionally racist".
The issue has returned to haunt Scotland Yard with 12 cases of alleged racism within the force now being investigated – six of them by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met Commissioner, has warned he would not stand for racists in his force and promised to do "whatever is in my power" to drive them out.
There have been widespread calls for the Macpherson inquiry to be reconvened in the light of new allegations of criminality involving Detective Sergeant John Davidson, who was at the heart of the initial police investigation into Stephen's racist murder in April 1993. Supporters of the move include the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and his Labour challenger, Ken Livingstone.
However, Ms Cooper said the terms of any new inquiry must be extended to examine the effectiveness of the Met's work in rooting out racism. In a letter to Ms May, she said: "I believe it is in the interests of the Met, and the police service as a whole, that 13 years on from the Macpherson report, we should not only confront the latest allegations, but publicly review progress made in eliminating racism in the police service.
"The death of Stephen Lawrence and the inquiry which followed shocked the country. There can be no room for any allegations surrounding those events to not be fully investigated."
She suggested that a reconvened inquiry would evaluate the Met's success in achieving 70 recommendations by Macpherson in stamping out racism, including measures to encourage recruitment of ethnic-minority officers. It should also examine whether corruption played a part in the original investigation into Stephen's murder and whether information about corruption was not given to the Macpherson inquiry, Ms Cooper said. The Home Office refused to comment on suggestions that Ms May could reopen the inquiry.
Politicians of all parties reacted in dismay when The Independent uncovered new allegations about DS Davidson. Police files claimed he dealt "in all aspects of criminality", while a police supergrass alleged he admitted officers had a corrupt relationship with Clifford Norris, the father of one of Stephen's killers. The allegations were withheld from the Lawrence family and not passed to the Macpherson inquiry or to the police watchdog's inquiry into claims of corruption.