Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered black teenager, finds that Scotland Yard corruption even extended to spying on her family, as public inquiry is announced
After being told she had been the victim of two decades of corruption, spying and cover-up, Doreen Lawrence might have vented fury at the Home Office minister opposite her in the House of Lords.
Instead she was dignity defined as she held her tears in check and spoke quietly of her “21 years of struggle” to get to the truth about Scotland Yard’s shameful behaviour over her son Stephen’s murder.
“We weren’t asking for anything special,” she said. “Just what we should have had, like any other citizen of this country.”
Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, who was made a peer last October, had earlier been given confirmation that the Metropolitan Police planted a “spy in the Lawrence family camp” to “smear” them.
Yet it was she who was doing the apologising as she told her fellow peers that “I’m getting a bit emotional”.
A report by Mark Ellison QC, which took a year to complete, found that an undercover officer codenamed N81 was planted by the Met’s top secret Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and passed on information about the state of Doreen and Neville Lawrence’s marriage and other family details to senior officers.
Mr Ellison also found “reasonable grounds” to suspect that one of the detectives investigating her son’s murder had a “corrupt relationship” with the gangster father of one of the killers, and that other officers may also have been corrupt.
Baroness Lawrence, who had to pause to compose herself more than once during her understated speech, said that “still there is more to come out”.
The findings of the report – commissioned by Theresa May, the Home Secretary – were so disturbing that Lord Taylor of Holbeach, the Home Office minister, also struggled to maintain his composure as he faced Baroness Lawrence across the Lords chamber.
“Stephen Lawrence was murdered more than 20 years ago and it’s deplorable that his family have had to wait so many years for the truth to emerge,” he said, clearly on the brink of tears.
Mrs May immediately announced a public inquiry into undercover policing – the second public inquiry into the Met’s handling of the case – describing the report’s findings as “profoundly shocking”.
After Stephen Lawrence, 18, was murdered in Eltham, south east London, in April 1993, Scotland Yard failed for 19 years to bring his killers to justice. The force’s failings prompted the Macpherson Report in 1999, which found that the Met was “institutionally racist”.
But the Ellison report had access to material which was not made available to the Macpherson inquiry, including evidence that suggested DS Davidson was corrupt and had links to Clifford Norris, the father of David Norris, who was convicted of Stephen’s murder together with Gary Dobson in 2012.
Baroness Lawrence, whose first response in the Lords was to thank Mrs May for tackling such a “difficult” issue, spoke of her difficulties over the years in convincing police officers and home secretaries that her suspicions about the Met were valid.
“It’s taken over a year for that [to be proved],” she said, as she spoke without notes. “But it’s taken nearly 21 years since Stephen has been killed and the fact that we as a family had to go through all this…
“It has been 21 years of struggle and no family should have to do that. It is the job of the justice system and the police service to give service to the whole community, not just to one section, and that’s what I have been campaigning for for the last 21 years.”
Lord Taylor, speaking to barely 30 peers who had bothered to stay in the chamber to hear Baroness Lawrence speak, described her speech as “one of the most potent occasions that I can remember, and I would like to thank the noble baroness for her dignity”.
Outside the chamber, Baroness Lawrence called for criminal action to be taken against Met officers, describing the report as the “final nail in the coffin” and calling on those involved to resign for their “disgraceful” actions.
“You can’t trust them,” she said. “Still to this day. Trust and confidence in the Met is going to go right down.
“People look at the Met Police as a good example of what everyone else should be doing across the world. Once this goes out now… they can’t be trusted.
“Why would you want to smear a family when they are grieving because they’ve lost a loved one? At a time when you are suffering, the way my son was murdered, to find out rather than them supporting us as a family, they were doing the complete opposite.”
Stephen’s father, Neville Lawrence, who was divorced from Doreen in 1999 and now lives in Jamaica, said: “What the Home Secretary has announced today is 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 I 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.”
By Gordon Rayner, and Steven Swinford8:53PM GMT 06 Mar 2014
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