The head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has apologised to the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence for the police watchdog’s part in prolonging the “family’s search for the truth”.
IPCC chair Dame Anne Owers said Mark Ellison QC’s review, published yesterday, made it clear that the 2006 IPCC investigation was “wrong” to conclude there was no evidence to suggest Scotland Yard withheld information in relation to corruption from the Macpherson inquiry into Stephen’s death.
She said: “I fully recognise this has prolonged by many years the Lawrence family’s search for the truth about the failed investigation into their son’s murder. I have today written to Baroness Lawrence and Mr Lawrence to apologise for our part in this.”
In another day of dramatic developments surrounding the Lawrence scandal, the head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terror unit was moved to a non-operational role in the wake of revelations concerning his links to undercover operations and the investigation into Stephen’s murder.
Commander Richard Walton has been temporarily removed from his post as head of the counter-terrorism command SO15 following the publication of the Ellison review.
Following Scotland Yard’s decision, Mr Walton said: “I welcome any scrutiny of my role in these events over more than 16 years ago, including in the forthcoming public inquiry.”
Mr Ellison revealed that an undercover officer – known as N81 – held a meeting in 1998 with Mr Walton, who was then an acting detective inspector working on Scotland Yard’s Lawrence review team, responsible for making submissions to the Macpherson Inquiry. N81 infiltrated a group in the late 1990s, which then sought to influence the Lawrence family campaign to further its own agenda, the Ellison report revealed.
Feedback from N81 to his unit, the Special Demonstrations Squad (SDS), touched on personal details concerning the Lawrence family, such as comments on the separation of Stephen’s mother and father, Doreen and Neville.
A meeting was set up between N81 and Mr Walton, which was described as a “fascinating and valuable exchange of information”.
A file note from a detective inspector within the SDS, Bob Lambert, said Mr Walton had been able to “increase his understanding of the Lawrences’ relationship with the various campaigning groups” which would be of “great value as he continued to prepare a draft submission to the inquiry on behalf of the commissioner”.
Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Paul Condon denied authorising undercover police officers to target the Lawrence family.
However, the peer, who held the top post at Scotland Yard between 1993 and 2000, backed plans for a wider public inquiry into the activities of police moles.
Lord Condon’s statement said: “I have read the reports by Mark Ellison QC and (Derbyshire) Chief Constable (Mick) Creedon and I am in broad agreement with their findings. I also fully support the further action outlined by the Home Secretary.”