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.”

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements