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  • How police spies ’tried to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence’: Undercover officer reveals how superiors wanted him to find ‘dirt’

    Peter Francis claims officers told him to dig into murdered teenager’s family
    He posed as an anti-racist activist following the death
    Victim’s mother said: ‘Nothing can justify… trying to discredit the family’
    Raises further questions about police surveillance of activist groups
    David Cameron demands that Scotland Yard investigates the damaging claim

    An undercover policeman revealed last night that he took part in an operation to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence.

    Peter Francis said his superiors wanted him to find ‘dirt’ that could be used against members of the murdered teenager’s family.

    The spy said he was also tasked with discrediting Stephen’s friend who witnessed the stabbing and campaigners angry at the failure to bring his killers to justice.

    Spy: Peter Francis said he was asked by senior officers in the Met Police to find information to smear the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence

    Worried: The Prime Minister said today that Scotland Yard must investigate the damaging claims

    He added that senior officers deliberately withheld his role from Sir William Macpherson, who led a public inquiry into the bungled police investigation.
    ‘They wanted any intelligence’ Peter Francis on ‘spying’

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    Francis said senior officers were afraid that anger at the failure to investigate the teenager’s racist killing would spiral into disorder on the streets. They had ‘visions of Rodney King’, whose beating at the hands of police led to the 1992 LA riots, he said.

    David Cameron has this morning urged Scotland Yard to launch a probe into what happened.

    ‘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,’ A No10 spokesperson said.

    The revelations mark the most extraordinary chapter so far in the sorry history of Scotland Yard’s jaw-dropping undercover operations.

    Stephen Lawrence was the victim of a racist murder in 1993. It was one of the highest profile racial killings in UK history

    The whistleblower is one of several to come forward to reveal deeply suspect practices by those ordered to infiltrate political protest groups from the 1980s onwards.

    Yesterday Stephen’s mother Doreen said being targeted by an undercover officer was the most surprising thing she had learned about the marathon inquiry. She 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.’

    The news will further inflame critics of covert policing of activist groups and raises questions over whether a police review will flush out all malpractice.’

    The 20-year-old operation was revealed in a joint investigation by The Guardian and Channel 4’s Dispatches being broadcast tonight.

    Francis posed as an anti-racist activist during four years he spent living undercover among protest groups following Stephen’s murder in April 1993.

    The former officer said he came under ‘huge and constant pressure’ to ‘hunt for disinformation’ that might be used to undermine those arguing for a better investigation into the murder.

    He now wants a full public inquiry into the undercover policing of protest groups, which he labelled ‘morally reprehensible’ in the past.

    He said: ‘I had to get any information on what was happening in the Stephen Lawrence campaign.

    ‘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.’

    Mr Francis joins a number of whistle blowers who infiltrated protest groups for the Met Police

    Francis was also involved in an ultimately failed effort to discredit Duwayne Brooks, a close friend of Lawrence who was with him on the night he was murdered.

    The former spy trawled through hours of CCTV from a demonstration to find evidence that led to Mr Brooks being arrested and charged with violent disorder in October 1993. However, the case was thrown out by a judge as an abuse of the legal process.

    Family: Stephen Lawrence’s mother Doreen and ex-husband Neville, Stephen’s father

    The spy monitored a number of ‘black justice’ campaigns, involving relatives of mostly black men who had died in suspicious circumstances in police custody.

    But he said his handlers were most interested in any information he could gather about the several groups campaigning over the death of Stephen.

    Although Francis did not meet the Lawrence family, he passed back ‘hearsay’ about them to his superiors.

    Mrs Lawrence said she was always baffled why family liaison officers were recording the identities of everyone entering and leaving their household following her son’s murder.

    She said the family had always suspected police had been gathering evidence about her visitors to discredit them but had no ‘concrete evidence’.

    In 1997, Francis argued that the Met should ‘come clean’ over the existence of its undercover operation to Sir William and his inquiry.

    But commanders opted for secrecy and claimed it was for the public good as there would be ‘battling on the streets’ if the public ever found out.
    ‘It just makes me really angry’: Doreen Lawrence

    Francis was a member of a covert unit known as the Special Demonstration Squad. Set up to combat protests against the Vietnam war in 1968, the SDS was funded by the Home Office to operate under the radar for four decades.

    Using the undercover alias Pete Black, he worked between 1993 and 1997 infiltrating a group named Youth Against Racism in Europe.

    He said he was one of four undercover officers who were also required to feed back intelligence about the campaigns for justice over the death of Stephen. The now disbanded unit has already been struck by controversy after its spies fathered children with their targets.

    An external investigation of past undercover deployments is being undertaken by a team of officers led by Derbyshire chief constable Mick Creedon.

    Pete Francis monitored a number of ‘black justice’ campaigns, involving relatives of mostly black men who had died in suspicious circumstances in police custody

    Mr Brooks always suspected he was a victim of a dirty tricks campaign by police. In an interview six years after the murder he said he felt the police ‘investigated us more thoroughly than they investigated the boys’ – referring to those behind the killing.

    Jack Straw, the former home secretary who in 1997 ordered the inquiry that led to the Macpherson report, said he was stunned.

    He said: ‘I should have been told of anything that was current, post the election of Tony Blair’s government in early May 1997. But much more importantly, [the] Macpherson inquiry should have been told.’

    Lord Condon, Met Commissioner between 1993 and 2000, said he was not aware any information had been withheld from Sir William.

    A Met spokesman said: ‘The claims in relation to Stephen Lawrence’s family will bring particular upset to them and we share their concerns.’

    These revelations and others about undercover police officers are contained in the book Undercover by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans.

    UNDERCOVER: THE TRUE STORY OF BRITAIN’S SECRET POLICE by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis is published by Guardian Faber at £12.99. Please follow this link to order a copy.

    By Chris Greenwood

    PUBLISHED: 21:50 GMT, 23 June 2013 | UPDATED: 11:12 GMT, 25 June 2013

    Find this story at 23 June 2013

    © Associated Newspapers Ltd