Lawrence officer 'spitefully changed evidence records'

Detective accused of sabotaging computer files after he was relieved of duties

An officer in the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry "spitefully" tampered with evidential documents, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Detective Constable Paul Steed, who was in charge of the exhibits in the case, sabotaged records after being relieved of his duties when he was arrested for assault in Spain, the jury was told.

The prosecution insists tiny blood spots and flecks, as well as fibres and hairs found on clothes belonging to Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, during a cold case review in 2006, prove they were part of the gang of white youths who murdered 18-year-old Mr Lawrence in Eltham, south-east London, on 22 April 1993.

Both men deny murder and their defence teams reject the crown case as merely a "teaspoon" of evidence, the product of cross contamination over the years. Yesterday the murder trial heard from Detective Sergeant Alan Taylor, who took over from DC Steed in June 2008. He explained how his predecessor had admitted spoiling a computer presentation on the continuity of the exhibits, changing reference numbers but then correcting them back.

Timothy Roberts QC, representing Mr Dobson, said to DS Taylor: "He appeared to be discharging [his duty] conscientiously but, in fact, he behaved in a completely spiteful and damaging way to this inquiry." The officer replied: "That could be said, yes, sir," adding he always found DC Steed to be diligent in other matters. He also insisted there was no suggestion the policeman had interfered with any other records or exhibits in the case. Furthermore, he said when he took over he "started from scratch" in investigating the integrity and continuity of the key evidence.

Liddle may face two years in jail for article

The Director of Public Prosecutions will consider whether to launch proceedings over a comment piece by Rod Liddle in The Spectator about the Stephen Lawrence murder trial.

Dominic Grieve QC, the Attorney General, has referred the article to the Crown Prosecution Service, after concluding it may have breached a court order. Keir Starmer QC will decide whether Mr Liddle and The Spectator should be prosecuted for breaching the Criminal Justice Act.

The maximum penalty for contempt of court is two years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Liddle's article was referred to Mr Grieve earlier this month by Mr Justice Treacy, the judge in the Lawrence murder trial. Treacy also ordered the trial jury not to read that week's edition of the magazine.

A spokesman for Mr Grieve said: "While a prosecution can be brought by the Attorney General, accepted practice is that such matters are more appropriately handled by the CPS and the police. In accordance with usual practice, he has referred the matter to the DPP for consideration. It will be for the CPS to determine whether a criminal prosecution should be brought."

Adam Sherwin