Met head Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe 'shocked' by allegations of smear campaign against Stephen Lawrence family

Two decades after the murder of Stephen Lawrence there are new revelations about the police handling of the case

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police may have to make another embarrassing apology to the living victims of the Stephen Lawrence murder case after it emerged that an alleged smear campaign was kept secret from the officers who brought two of the killers to justice.

In a damning indictment of secrecy and disorganisation at the heart of Britain’s biggest police force, the former and current heads of the Yard said that they were unaware of the alleged spying operation on the Lawrence family, their supporters and campaigners.

The Prime Minister said he was deeply concerned about the allegations by a former undercover police officer about a snooping campaign against the family after the 1993 murder, as a raft of new inquiries were ordered to examine the claims. The allegations included a deliberate attempt to discredit the main witness to the murder, Stephen’s close friend Duwayne Brooks.

Stephen’s father Neville Lawrence said the proposals did not go far enough and called for another judge-led public inquiry to get to the truth. The previous 1999 Macpherson report found that Scotland Yard was “institutionally racist” – leaving a series of police leaders struggling to shake off the tag despite high-profile anti-racism campaigns.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the current Commissioner, said: “I am personally shocked by the allegations that an undercover officer was told to find evidence that might smear the Lawrence family.

“The additional allegations that this was concealed from a public inquiry, and that Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks was targeted, are also very serious. If these allegations are true, it’s a disgrace, and the Metropolitan Police Service will apologise.”

A former undercover officer, Peter Francis, told Channel 4’s Dispatches and The Guardian that he was put under “huge and constant pressure” from superiors to hunt for disinformation to undermine those demanding a better investigation into the 1993 murder in Eltham, southeast London.

Mr Francis, who said he never met the Lawrence family, was part of a now-disbanded covert unit called the Special Demonstration Squad, set up in the 1960s to target political activists.

Nobody was brought to justice for the murder until January last year when advances in forensic science resulted in the convictions of David Norris and Gary Dobson.

The initial inquiry was dogged by racism, poor decision-making and delays, and over the years further investigations have looked at allegations that corruption shielded the killers.

Dr Richard Stone, an adviser on the Macpherson inquiry panel, confirmed that it had never been told about the alleged undercover operation and accused the police and the Home Office of seeking to undermine the inquiry at “every turn”.

Dr Stone said: “The fact they had undercover police officers spying on the Lawrences is quite disgraceful. What the hell is the point of having an inquiry if people who are responsible for making the inquiry work are undermining it at every single turn?”

Senior investigators on the police inquiry that led to the jailing of the two men last year said they had made inquiries about the possibility of an undercover operation. “We wrote to every organisation internally and externally to ask,” a senior officer said. “There was nothing in the files.”

Lord Condon, the Met Commissioner at the time of the investigation, said he was shocked at the revelations and that he never knew or authorised “any police officers being tasked to smear Mr and Mrs Lawrence”.

Mr Francis said he picked up information that Mr Brooks, now a Liberal Democrat councillor, was involved in a riot that led to missiles being thrown and a car turned over, and a trawl through CCTV pictures showed him in the crowds. He was not charged until five months after the protest, but the case against a traumatised Mr Brooks was thrown out by the judge. His solicitor, Jane Deighton, said: “Once again the apology has come out for the world famous family but not for the victim who was there.”

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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links