In the wake of fresh revelations by The Independent in March that the hunt for the killers of Stephen Lawrence may have been hobbled by corruption, police watchdogs launched what was billed as a searching review of all available evidence.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission yesterday unveiled the fruits of that investigation and in so doing, missed the point. This newspaper was concerned that vital details, including the contents of secret Scotland Yard intelligence reports, were not disclosed to Stephen's parents or to their lawyers. A Labour MP yesterday underlined the point: public confidence that everything was done to catch Stephen's killers can only be restored by a fully independent inquiry; and concerns remain about the manner and speed with which this latest review has been carried out.
One alarming deficiency arose when I spotted my own name in the 24-page document attached to what purported to be factual findings about The Independent's investigation – based on an informal conversation with the IPCC's investigator in the tumult of a school run.
Paul Davies, the IPCC investigator, called me at home on 18 April wanting help with the new evidence this paper had uncovered, following painstaking examination of documents relating to the 1993 murder, by investigative reporters Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn.
After 19 years of uncertainty and hurt for the Lawrence family I felt that if a representative of the nation's police watchdog wanted assistance with an inquiry into this murky issue I was morally obliged to help.
What followed reflects badly on the very organisation whose purpose it is to safeguard the integrity of our police. While I could not speak formally on behalf of this newspaper, I said I wanted to be helpful on an informal basis. During our brief conversation I explained some of the complexity of the corruption claims and indicated areas in which I believed The Independent had raised grounds for further investigation. Since I was not main author, I suggested he contact Mr Gillard, stating he also held some documentation on which the story was based.
What was never discussed was Mr Davies' finding in yesterday's IPCC report that this newspaper "did not have any 'evidence' in the Lawrence case". That is untrue.
That informal conversation in good faith has been skewed to present a picture of The Independent's efforts to get to the bottom of the crucial question of whether corruption exacerbated the single-most damaging failure in the history of the Metropolitan Police.
This paper did not (and would never) publish without evidence. On the contrary, the many journalists who produced it worked diligently for weeks to establish that there was evidence which merited further investigation by the authorities.
An effort to assist on a matter of huge importance has been used against us. I personally will find it difficult to help the IPCC in future.