UK

Stephen Lawrence Report Shows 'Deeply Troubling' Suspicion Of Met Policeman Corruption

06/03/2014 13:28 GMT | Updated 06/03/2014 13:59 GMT

A judge-led public inquiry is to be launched into the work of undercover officers in the wake of "profoundly shocking" findings of a major review into police corruption in the original Stephen Lawrence investigation, the Home Secretary has said.

In his review, Mark Ellison QC found that a Metropolitan Police "spy" was working within the "Lawrence family camp" during the course of the judicial inquiry into matters arising from Stephen's death.

The undercover officer in question, who is unnamed in the report, was deployed by the Special Demonstration Squad, a unit that has been at the heart of a wide range of allegations and will now be subject to a public inquiry.

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A public inquiry is to be launched into the work of undercover officers

In a review labelled "deeply troubling" by the Home Secretary, Ellison said there is evidence to suspect one of the detectives on the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation - detective sergeant John Davidson - acted corruptly.

There was a high level of suspicion that the former officer was corrupt both before and after he worked on the police investigation, Mark Ellison QC said.

And there were still lines of inquiry that may be capable of providing evidence of corruption among other officers, although that evidence did not currently exist, the review added.

Addressing the House of Commons, the Home Secretary said: "The totality of what the report shows is deeply troubling."

Referring to Mr Ellison's comments on the work of the SDS, Mrs May said: "This meant that the SDS operated as if exempt from the proper rules of disclosure in criminal cases.

"And this means there is a real potential for miscarriages of justice to have occurred."

"In particular, Ellison says there is an inevitable potential for SDS officers to have been viewed by those they infiltrated as encouraging, and participating in, criminal behaviour," she added.

Neville Lawrence, the father of murdered teenager Stephen , today said the findings of a report into possible police corruption surrounding his son's case were "21 years overdue".

"Mark Ellison’s report has simply corroborated what I have known for the past 21 years and our long fight for truth and justice continues.

“I sat through the last inquiry but I have yet to decide whether I can go through another inquiry. I’m not sure can go back to square one again. It is very painful. While all this has been happening, our family has been destroyed. I now live 5,000 miles away from my children and my grandchild.”

Lawrence is expected meet May with his lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, who said: "There are so many issues of concern that it is hard to know where to begin. What is clear is that the police cannot investigate themselves and therefore it is right there is a public inquiry, something which Mr Lawrence has long called for.

"No other family has had to suffer for the length of time and in the way that the Lawrence family has at the hands of the police. I now call upon the Home Secretary to ensure that the public inquiry and specifically those issues affecting Mr Lawrence are dealt with in the utmost urgency."

The Ellison report said that, in late July 1998, Scotland Yard's Anti-Corruption Command held a debriefing with former Detective Constable Neil Putnam, in which he made claims against Mr Davidson.

The barrister said that both the intelligence picture suggesting Mr Davidson was a corrupt officer and the content of Mr Putnam's debriefing should have been revealed to the public inquiry led by Sir William Macpherson.

"It is a source of some concern to us that nobody in the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) who was aware of the detail of what Neil Putnam was saying about Mr Davidson appears to have thought to ask him about Mr Davidson's motives in the Lawrence case," the report stated.

After the Macpherson report was published in 1999, Mr Putnam, who was jailed for his own, separate corruption offences in 1998, alleged that, in the summer of 1994, Mr Davidson had admitted having a "corrupt connection" with Clifford Norris, the convicted drug-smuggling father of Stephen's murderer David.

Mr Ellison said that, while independent corroboration of Mr Putnam's allegation did not currently exist, there were "outstanding lines of inquiry" that could be investigated, which may change that assessment.

The barrister added that "it is not impossible to envisage that the inquiry might have been driven to the conclusion that there must have been more to John Davidson's failure to develop information and evidence in the Lawrence investigation than simply an inappropriate manner and unfortunate unconscious racism".

Assuming Mr Putnam was available and willing to give evidence, there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that Mr Davidson acted corruptly, the findings said.

Mr Ellison's report added: "Other than Mr Putnam's potential evidence, the material available which suggests that Mr Davidson may have been corrupt in the Stephen Lawrence investigation remains 'intelligence' and not 'evidence'."

In addition, Mr Ellison said his review had not been able to uncover all material evidence relating to the issue of corruption, adding that it was clear there were "significant areas" where relevant Metropolitan Police records should exist but could not be found.

The original anti-corruption intelligence database itself could not be accounted for, the report added.

Considering whether a further public inquiry should be held, Mr Ellison said the potential for any such inquiry to discover more than his own review had may well be "limited".

"Fundamentally this is because of the chaotic state of the historical records held by the Metropolitan Police Service," he added.