Undercover Policing Inquiry ‘more interested in protecting perpetrators than victims’, says Baroness Lawrence

Murdered teenager’s parents condemn decision to allow undercover police to remain anonymous

Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon said she had personal experience of officers not telling the truth
Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon said she had personal experience of officers not telling the truth

The mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has accused an inquiry into undercover policing of “protecting the alleged perpetrators“ rather than the victims of abuses.

The campaign for justice over Stephen’s murder in 1993, when a botched police investigation initially saw his racist killers go free, was among more than 1,000 groups spied on since 1968.

A former member of the secretive Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) claims he was tasked with finding ”dirt“ on the Lawrence family in the late 1990s, but the Metropolitan Police has denied it.

A lawyer representing Baroness Lawrence, Stephen’s mother, told the Undercover Policing Inquiry said she now doubts it would uncover the answers she seeks on why her family was spied on.

"Baroness Lawrence is losing confidence, if she has not already lost it, in this inquiry's ability to get to the truth,” said Imran Khan QC.

“This inquiry is not delivering on what she was promised and is not achieving what she expected …  it appears to her that this Inquiry is more interested in protecting the alleged perpetrators than the victims. This cannot be right.”

Mr Khan raised concern about the number of police officers and staff who have been granted anonymity for the inquiry, saying that without being able to identify who was a spy, the Lawrence family will not be able to give evidence on their actions.

The cover names of 51 officers must currently remain secret, along with 119 of the real names of officers and staff.

“What Baroness Lawrence believes is actually happening is a ‘secret’ inquiry in which officer after officer is hiding behind a pseudonym and a screen,” Mr Khan said in an opening statement delivered on Tuesday.

“Not only does she not know who most of them are, but neither does the public. This is not what she asked Theresa May for. This is certainly not what she expected.”

Mr Khan said the peer believes she should be able to see every officer who spied on here, asking: “Why should they be allowed to hide from public gaze and public scrutiny? In the decades since her son’s murder, Baroness Lawrence wasn’t allowed to do so.”

The lawyer called it a “travesty” that so many anonymity applications had been granted and called for the inquiry chairman, Sir John Mitting, to reconsider them.

Stephen Lawrence murder investigation shelved, Cressida Dick confirms

The sentiment was echoed by Heather Williams QC, representing Stephen's father Dr Neville Lawrence, who said the inquiry’s progress was not leading him to feel conference.

”In order for him to draw a line under these terrible events, it is very important to Dr Lawrence that he is able to participate in a fully transparent inquiry, capable of establishing the truth of what happened and capable of learning the lessons necessary to prevent reoccurrence,” she added.

“How can the public have confidence in the policing of black communities, if police power is misused to discredit the victims of crime? This all increases the perception for many people that, to the police, black lives do not matter.”

The name of one police officer involved in spying on  the family - David Hagan - has so far been published but there are four others who remain anonymous that Dr Lawrence would like identified.

The Undercover Policing Inquiry was commissioned in 2015, after a review found that the Lawrence family had been spied on over years of “wholly inappropriate” operations.

Mark Ellison QC found a spy had been inserted into the family camp during the Macpherson Inquiry, which found numerous failings and concluded that Scotland Yard was institutionally racist.

He could not confirm claims by whistleblower Peter Francis that he was tasked with “smearing” the Lawrence family because of a lack of written records.

Mr Khan said: “It was a desperate and utterly baseless attempt to smear the Lawrence name. Of course,there was no such intelligence. The Lawrence family were, and always have been, a law-abiding family.”

Only two of the men involved in Stephen Lawrence’s death have been convicted of murder

After the Ellison Report was released, Ms May said she was “shocked” by its findings and committed to establishing a public inquiry “to thoroughly investigate undercover policing and the operation of the SDS”.

In an opening statement delivered earlier this month, a lawyer for the Metropolitan Police said it had “not seen any evidence” that the Lawrence family campaign and his friend Duwayne Brooks OBE were deliberately targeted.

Peter Skelton QC said the force was “committed to a full and frank investigation of these matters” and praised Baroness Lawrence’s campaigning.

But Mr Khan said she did not want “mealy-mouthed gratitude”, adding: “If the Met is sincere it must stop churning out platitudes as it has done so at this inquiry and take immediate action to implement change.”

The Lawrences also called on Sir John to appoint panel members to help him focus on issues including racism, in the same way as the inquiry into their son's death in the 1990s.

Stephen was murdered by a gang of racists in 1993, and incompetence and racism in the police marred the original investigation into his death.

Nearly 20 years later two of his killers, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were finally jailed, but the remaining three suspects never faced justice and the Metropolitan Police has closed the investigation.

“No one can truly understand the sheer depth of the heartache I have felt,” Baroness Lawrence said in a written statement.

“I long for anonymity and would give up all that I have just to go back to the seconds before Stephen’s death and prevent it. I am just an ordinary person. I have nothing special that deserves public attention or acclaim. I simply ask for justice.”

The inquiry will continue on Wednesday.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in