24 Jun 2013

Stephen Lawrence family ‘targeted in police smear campaign’

David Cameron calls for an investigation into claims from an undercover officer that he was part of an operation to “smear” the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The prime minister said he was “deeply concerned” by the allegations by Peter Francis, who says he posed for four years as an anti-racism campaigner.

Mr Francis has claimed he was told by his superior officers to find “dirt” on the Lawrence family, shortly after the 18-year-old was killed in April 1993.

The prime minister is deeply concerned by reports that the police wanted to smear Stephen Lawrence’s family and would like the Metropolitan police to investigate immediately. No 10 spokesman

He was also asked to target the friend who witnessed the murder, Duwayne Brooks, and campaigners angry at the failure to bring his killers to justice, a Dispatches/Guardian investigation will say tonight.

“I had to get any information on what was happening in the Stephen Lawrence campaign,” Mr Francis tells Dispatches. “They wanted the campaign to stop. It was felt it was going to turn into an elephant.

“Throughout my deployment there was almost constant pressure on me personally to find out anything I could that would discredit these campaigns.”

‘Nothing can justify’

Stephen’s mother Doreen (see video, above) said: “Out of all the things I’ve found out over the years, this certainly has topped it.

“Nothing can justify the whole thing about trying to discredit the family and people around us.”

Francis was a member of the undercover police squad, the special demonstration squad, the Dispatches/Guardian investigation reports.

I am absolutely appalled by these revelations. Jack Straw

Scotland Yard said it “recognises the seriousness” of Mr Francis’s allegations. A statement said: “The MPS recognises the seriousness of the allegations of inappropriate behaviour and practices involving past undercover deployments.

“The claims in relation to Stephen Lawrence’s family will bring particular upset to them and we share their concerns.”

‘Deeply concerned’

A No 10 spokesman said: “The prime minister is deeply concerned by reports that the police wanted to smear Stephen Lawrence’s family and would like the Metropolitan police to investigate immediately.”

Jack Straw, who as home secretary ordered the Macpherson report into allegations of Scotland Yard racism, said he was “absolutely appalled” by the reports, and said he would refer the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (see video, below).

“I am absolutely appalled by these revelations,” Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “They go to the heart of the issue of the integrity and the ethics of the police service, or the lack of both, in part of the Metropolitan police at the time of Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993 and for some years after that.”

“These are really serious allegations. The IPCC have the resources to get to the bottom of what happened here and they have also got the powers to do so. I think they are the appropriate body to make this investigation.”

Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to make a statement on the claims in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

Operation Herne

The Metropolitan police are currently investigating the past practices of undercover police officers in an investigation known as Operation Herne.

The police statement continued: “Operation Herne is a live investigation, four strands of which are being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and it would be inappropriate to pre-judge its findings.

“The MPS must balance the genuine public interest in these matters with its duty to protect officers and former officers who have been deployed undercover, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

“We are therefore not prepared to confirm nor deny the identity of individuals alleged in the media to have been working undercover, nor confirm nor deny the deployment of individuals on specific operations.

“It is also important to recognise that any actions by officers working on or with the Special Demonstration Squad need to be understood by Operation Herne in terms of the leadership, supervision, support, training, legal framework, tasking and reporting mechanisms that were in place at the time.

“At some point it will fall upon this generation of police leaders to account for the activities of our predecessors, but for the moment we must focus on getting to the truth.”

In January 2012 Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of being involved in the attack and sentenced to life imprisonment, after a forensic review of the case found significant new scientific evidence on clothing seized from their homes following the murder.

Dispatches: The Police’s Dirty Secret, airs on Monday 24 June at 8pm on Channel 4.