Stephen Lawrence murder investigation: Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer removed from post following Met Police spying revelations

 

Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has been removed from his post as recriminations grew from a damning report which found that Scotland Yard spied on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Commander Richard Walton, head of the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism command, was temporarily transferred to a “non-operational role” following criticism of his part in debriefing the undercover officer. Mr Walton was a member of the Yard’s team responsible for drawing up submissions to the Macpherson Inquiry at the time of the incident in 1998.

The abrupt removal of such a senior officer underlined the grave implications for Britain’s largest police force of the findings of the report by barrister Mark Ellison QC, who also found that the original investigation into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 may have been tainted by corruption.

Alastair Morgan, whose private investigator brother Daniel was murdered in a case which Mr Ellison said could cast new light on suspicions that a detective in the Lawrence investigation may have been corrupt, said yesterday it appeared increasingly clear that the Met had contained a “firm within a firm” of bent officers and called for a full investigation.

In his first public response to the Ellison Report, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe described the review as “devastating” and said its publication was one of the worst days of his career.

He told the Evening Standard: “I cannot rewrite history and the events of the past but I do have a responsibility to ensure the trust and confidence of the people of London in the Met now and in the future. This will need a considered response to meet head-on the concerns that have been expressed.”

Prime Minister David Cameron echoed support for Stephen’s parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, saying they have “suffered far too much” in the wait for the truth about their son’s murder.

Murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death in south London in 1993 Murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death in south London in 1993 (Getty Images)
Mr Walton was among those singled out for criticism by Mr Ellison after it was found that the undercover agent planted among supporters of the Lawrence family, known only as N81, had met him as part of preparations for the Yard’s submissions to Sir William Macpherson.

The Ellison report found that Mr Walton, who at the time was an acting detective inspector, had offered an explanation of the “completely improper” meeting with N81 which was “less than straightforward and somewhat troubling”.

The barrister said that the counter-terrorism officer, who had been ordered to attend the meeting, had altered his account of it when interviewed and that his changed recollection was “unconvincing”.

Scotland Yard said it had made the decision to transfer Mr Walton and had also referred his case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Read more: Did corruption prevent Daniel Morgan’s killer being caught?
Comment: Macpherson had one hand tied behind back
Comment: How will the police ever regain our trust?

Lord Condon, the former Met commissioner who was in charge at the time of the Macpherson Inquiry, meanwhile denied authorising N81, a member of the secret Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) used to infiltrate suspected subversive groups, to target the Lawrence family.

Voicing his support for the public inquiry into undercover policing announced by Home Secretary Theresa May following the Ellison Report, Lord Condon said: “At no stage did I ever authorise or encourage or know about any action by an undercover officer in relation to Mr and Mrs Lawrence or their friends or supporter or the Macpherson Inquiry hearings. Had I known, I would have stopped this action immediately as inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, lawyers for two animal rights activists jailed for arson attacks on department stores said they will seek to have the convictions quashed in the first of a raft of cases likely to be brought for review because of the involvement of undercover officers.

Solicitors for Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard, who were found guilty of firebombing branches of Debenhams, said that the allegedly undeclared involvement of an undercover officer in their cases made their convictions unsafe.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before