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Theresa May: The toughest moment in her career

QUESTION TIME: Home secretary Theresa May and Neville Lawrence

THE INDEPENDENT Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have asked Mr Lawrence OBE for a meeting to hear his views and discuss their changes. In a letter to Mr Lawrence from Dame Anne Owers, Chair, IPCC she apologised to him for failure to collect evidence about potential police corruption.

The IPCC has been given £15 million from the Home Secretary, Theresa May to expand their remit and investigate all serious complaints instead of the forces investigating themselves. Mr Lawrence is considering his options as he has met with a Government Independent Advisory Group to give them his opinion on the changes in the police force since the MacPherson Inquiry. He also speaks to young officers in a group led by retired Metropolitan Police Commissioner, John Grieves.

A weary Neville Lawrence is disappointed by the outcome of the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, which found that there was possible police corruption in his son’s murder case.

“We have been fighting for justice for the murder of my son Stephen for twenty-one years, and to discover that information about the undercover police spying on my family was withheld is concerning however, I still welcome the new inquiry.”

The findings of the Mark Ellison QC report confirmed that:
• Information regarding undercover policing was withheld.
• The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) undercover officer reported to the Met
Police working on the submission to the Macpherson Inquiry.
• The culture of non-disclosure regarding
the undercover work.
Mr Lawrence is asking questions and wants answers from Theresa May regarding the new inquiry. He will be putting his questions in writing to the Home Secretary in the next couple of weeks.

The questions will include:
• Will the corrupt officers be punished this time?
• Who instructed the undercover officer to spy on my family, and who was in charge of the unit?
• Are we still being watched?
• When will the police stop hiding behind
the Official Secrets Act?
• What immediate action will Hogan-Howe take to gain the black community’s trust?
• Who gave the instructions to shred the
documents relating to the case?
• Who is N81? Why can’t he or she be questioned and still keep their anonymity?

Theresa May said that it was deplorable that Stephen Lawrence’s family had to wait twenty-one years for the truth to emerge, and has ordered another inquiry for which the Terms of Reference are to be decided.
This will be undertaken after the Operation Herne Inquiry by Creedon of the Derbyshire Police force is finalised, which may take another year.

POLICE CORRUPTION AND SURVEILLANCE

Jocelyn Cockburn, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors, who represents Mr Lawrence said:
“One of the most shocking aspects of the report is the revelation that documentation has been destroyed, even fairly recently, and that the police did knowingly withhold material about police corruption and surveillance from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. This culture of a lack of transparency is ongoing as can be seen by the difficulties Ellison had in obtaining evidence from the police.




IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police (clockwise from left) Sir Paul Condon (1993 - 2000), Sir John Stevens (2000 - 2005), Sir Ian Blair (2005 - 2008) and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

She added: “In order to tackle this culture the new inquiry must examine what was withheld from Macpherson. Senior officers are going to be on the stand, giving evidence, and we need to be able to ask them about why evidence was not brought to Macpherson’s attention and on whose orders. In the context of non-disclosure to the Lawrence Inquiry this new inquiry must be able to examine the Met’s lack of transparency on both the surveillance and corruption issues.”

SHOCKING AND PROFOUNDLY DISTURBING

The Rt Hon Lord Paul Boateng who was Minister of State at the Home Office when the Macpherson Report was published in 1999 commenting on the Ellison findings told The Voice: “The Ellison report is a shocking and profoundly disturbing document that demands speedy and effective action to provide the answers that the Lawrence family have been so long denied. Our hearts go out to them as their agony is protracted still further.

“We owe Neville and Doreen a huge debt of gratitude only their strength and perseverance has brought these matters to light. Whatever emerges from the processes that are now taking place must give the public assurance that they seek as to the probity and accountability of policing in London and throughout the country”.

The Ellison report found a complete lack of transparency, destruction of evidence and failure of every related police investigation as well as the 2006 IPCC review.

One issue of concern for Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu, the co-author of The Book of Forgiving, written with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is whether the public inquiry will deal with these issues and also the withholding of information from Macpherson, she told The Voice: “Neville Lawrence’s pain at the revelations around the police operations that occurred after the tragic murder of his son, Stephen Lawrence, rekindled the nation’s shared grief.

“In South Africa in the aftermath of apartheid we knew that telling the truth and healing our history was the only way to save our country.

“We did not know where the process of truth talking would lead us. What we now know is the process we embarked on through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission was, as all real growth proves to be, astoundingly painful and profoundly beautiful.”

She added: “My father, Desmond Tutu has written of no future without forgiveness. Yet for Neville, and for most of us, it is clear that telling the story and hearing truth is an important aspect of the path towards healing, the path to forgiveness.”

When asked about the outcome he would like to see Mr Lawrence said: “I’m not worried about how long it takes I just want the whole truth. No stone is to be left unturned.”

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