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Police could face criminal charges after drugs inquiry: Officers in north-east London alleged to have sold cocaine and planted evidence

UP TO 10 police officers have been recommended for criminal charges following a marathon investigation into allegations of drugs trafficking, planting evidence and perversion of justice by police at Stoke Newington in north-east London.

The officers are among 45 investigated by the complaints bureau of the Metropolitan Police in a three- year inquiry which followed accusations that a detective constable was involved in selling cocaine through an intermediary.

In a statement yesterday signalling the end of the inquiry - one of the largest of its type and the biggest in London since the late 1970s - the Police Complaints Authority said 22 files had been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

At the same time, the Hackney Community Defence Association, which represents most of the complainants, delivered a dossier to Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, stressing its unhappiness with the investigation and calling for a judicial inquiry into policing in the multiracial, deprived area. Mr Howard said he would consider the matter 'very carefully'.

Although the formal end of the inquiry came yesterday, the first of the 22 files went to the CPS in November 1992 and the last in September 1993; further police investigations have since been conducted into points of detail. The CPS is understood to be ready to announce its decision on charges 'within a few weeks'.

The central allegation of Operation Jackpot was that one officer - named in a court as 'Officer X' - was receiving pounds 1,000 a month from a Stoke Newington woman who was selling crack on his behalf. This officer and others were also said to have planted drugs on suspects.

A total of 22 complainants eventually made more than 130 separate allegations naming 45 officers. In addition to those of drugs dealing, 65 allegations were of planting drugs or other evidence, 27 of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, 27 of theft, and 9 of assault.

During the inquiry, eight officers were moved to other stations and three suspended from duty. The authority said two officers had 11 specific allegations made against them, two more had 10 and one had 8. Of the remainder, 18 had between two and six allegations each, and 22 officers had one allegation each. Most of the officers were uniform or detective constables.

Detective Superintendent Ian Russell, the officer who conducted the inquiry, is understood to have recommended charges against about 10 officers at the core of the affair, although more could face disciplinary action later.

However, the CPS has been criticised in the past, particularly in the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad affair, for failing to bring charges, despite recommendations from investigating officers.

Calling for a judicial inquiry yesterday, the Hackney association said it had dealt with 381 complaints against officers from Hackney and Stoke Newington stations since January 1989, and was supporting 83 civil actions against the Metropolitan Police.

Eleven people have had convictions quashed because of doubts about the reliability of evidence given by officers under investigation; a further 16 are waiting to be heard. A large number of prosecutions have also either collapsed or resulted in acquittals because of doubts about the reliability of police evidence.

Sir John Smith, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said although the allegations involved a 'significant' number of officers, they represented only a tiny minority of the 28,000-strong force. He said that in Stoke Newington there were 'over 300 police officers who are doing a difficult and sometimes dangerous job in that difficult policing environment. The vast majority are untouched by the allegations.'

He added: 'Anybody who is aware of the way we feel about policing, about the way we go about our work, realises that corruption is something which none of us would condone. The bulk of police officers in London today are very, very concerned about any allegation of corruption. We are ardent in our resolve to stamp it out and we will do just that.'