QUESTION TIME: Sir Bernard-Hogan Howe during the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee (PA)
METROPOLITAN POLICE commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has said he is confident an inquiry into the alleged police smear campaign against the family of Stephen Lawrence will be credible.
Hogan-Howe was answering questions about the Met’s undercover officer practices before London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee.
The allegations against the police were made by former undercover officer Peter Francis, who told a joint investigation led by the Guardian and Channel 4’s Dispatches that the force asked him to find “any intelligence that could have smeared the campaign” of the Lawrence family seeking justice for their murdered son.
Stephen Lawrence was 18 when he was murdered by a gang of white youths in Eltham, southeast London.
The racially charged attack took place while he was waiting for a bus with friend Duwayne Brooks.
Despite identifying the suspects, it took police over 18 years to bring Lawrence’s murderers to justice – the Met was accused of institutional racism in how it handled the case.
There is an existing inquiry into police use of undercover officers – named Operation Herne – and Hogan-Howe said his force was “trying to build a lot of independence” into the investigation.
Chief Constable Mick Creedon, of Derbyshire police, is set to lead the inquiry, with the Independent Police Complaints Commission supervising it.
The Met commissioner said claims that London police used undercover officers to dig up dirt against the Lawrence family would be a priority in the overall investigation.
Answering questions as to whether police bugged confidential meetings of Brooks and his lawyer, he said an internal investigation had been launched.
“In terms of how many times it happened we're not sure, because we can only get the original allegation and we've got a relatively brief letter making the allegation about one incident”, Hogan-Howe said.
“It may be that Duwayne Brooks or his representatives might say we don't know how many times it happened, that's what we'd like you to find out. And that's what the investigation will look at”.
The commissioner’s response coincided with today’s meeting between Doreen Lawrence and Home Secretary Theresa May.
The murdered teenager’s mother called for a public inquiry into the allegations, and added that May told her “all options are open” concerning any investigation.
Mrs Lawrence said the claims that police led an undercover operation against her family were the “most surprising” development in the 20 years since her son’s death.
The alleged smear tactics, she said outside the Home Office, made her feel “sick to the stomach”.