'It will take time to rebuild trust,' Doreen Lawrence tells Met chief

Mother of Stephen Lawrence meets Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe at Scotland Yard to question the alleged smear campaign of the Special Demonstration Squad

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The Independent Online

Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, has told the Metropolitan Police that it will "take time to gain back trust" after meeting with Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to discuss the forces alleged smear campaign.

The conference was arranged after Peter Francis, a former undercover officer, claimed that attempts were made by the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) to find information to smear the Lawrence family following the racist murder of her son in April 1993.

Sir Bernard said that, at the meeting, he would try to answer the 13 questions that Mrs Lawrence's lawyer Imran Khan has submitted about the claims. But he insisted that the call to hold a public inquiry was out of his hands.

"We can see if we can answer those questions, we can tell her what we're doing," he said. "At the end of the day all I have to offer is a police inquiry. Whether or not the Government or Parliament is persuaded by that, I can't really say any more than I have said already."

Speaking outside Scotland Yard after their discussion, Mrs Lawrence said: "Over the years we look at how many things have changed and how people are beginning to respond to things. Now, it's like taking a couple of steps back. It will take a while to gain back trust again."

She added that there is an important distinction to be maintained between officers in today's force and the authorities that presided over the investigation twenty years ago. Of Sir Bernard, she said: "He's a new person so I think my questions, even though he's now in charge, it has to go back to those other commissioners."

"It is going to take some time to build that trust up again. I think that people at times felt that they were beginning to – we had the public inquiry, we've had so many things that happened over the years." But, she said, this new revelation had destroyed some of that trust in the police and the authorities.

In a statement after the meeting, Hogan-Howe said the discussion had been constructive. "These are serious allegations and I understand why the Lawrence family want answers quickly," he said. "I am determined for Operation Herne to establish the facts as quickly as possible for an operation of this size."

The meeting comes as Greater Manchester Police begin their own investigation. It has been claimed the force's Special Branch sent a memo in August 1998 to all divisions seeking information on "groups or individuals" expected to attend the Manchester-based Macpherson inquiry into the police handling of the Lawrence murder case.

Mrs Lawrence also met Theresa May, the Home Secretary, at the Home Office on Thursday to urge her to hold a full public investigation.

Mrs May said earlier this week that the claims could be examined by two existing inquiries - a police investigation into the activities of undercover officers and another led by Mark Ellison QC into allegations of corruption in the original investigation into Stephen's murder.

Speaking after lobbying the Home Secretary, Mrs Lawrence said: "She said all options are open and she explained about the different reviews that are going on at the moment and how it could be expanded.

"I made my point quite clear. For the past 20 years the fact that we as a family have been talking about corruption and we have undercover officers trying to smear our family. I want answers. I want to know who was the senior officer who signed that off.

"We had no idea this was going on from 1993 until 1997."

Sir Bernard said that he has asked Mick Creedon, the officer from Derbyshire Police leading the inquiry into the SDS, to prioritise the Lawrence claims.

The SDS was set up in 1968 and was dissolved in 2008. Undercover officers from the SDS have also been accused of fathering children with women who did not know their true identity.

Stephen's father Neville wants a judge-led public inquiry, claiming that the current investigations are not enough to get to the truth.