Police forces ordered to ‘clean stables’ in smear investigation

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The archives of every police force in the country are to be trawled in a bid to “clean the stables” while the investigation into attempts to smear anti-racism campaigners continues.

Chief constables will be ordered today to urgently review their activities in the wake of claims that officers at forces including West Yorkshire Police tried to discredit witnesses attending the Macpherson Inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Policing Minister Damian Green said he was acting to ensure “nothing is hidden”, and warned “unpalatable truths” may emerge.

In a speech, Mr Green is expected to say: “This has been a time of bad headlines for the police. They are largely historic but still hugely damaging.

“The job of cleaning out the stables is key – but even that is not enough. We need to rebuild confidence by carrying on reform.”

All 43 forces in England and Wales and the Serious Organised Crime Agency will be asked to examine their records for evidence of past misconduct.

West Yorkshire Police is already facing investigation by the police watchdog over former chief constable Sir Norman Bettison’s alleged attempt to smear anti-racism campaigner Mohammed Amran, who was a key witness at the inquiry when it sat in Bradford in October 1998.

Greater Manchester Police has also referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following claims its Special Branch sent a memo to officers asking for information on “groups or individuals” due to attend the inquiry in Manchester.

The watchdog is now waiting for Avon and Somerset Constabulary and West Midlands Police to complete searches of their records for evidence of any surveillance or intelligence-gathering operations carried out in Bristol and Birmingham, where the other two regional sittings of the inquiry were heard.

The investigations were sparked after claims by a former undercover officer with the Metropolitan Police, Peter Francis, that he was asked to find “dirt” on the family and friends of Mr Lawrence after he was killed in Eltham, south east London, in April 1993.

A retired senior Scotland Yard police officer has since admitted authorising secret recordings of a meeting between Duwayne Brooks – a friend of the victim who witnessed the killing – and his lawyers and detectives.

Officers had wanted “an unassailable record of what transpired” in meetings in 1999 and 2000, ex-deputy assistant commissioner John Grieve said.

Mr Grieve, who was director of the racial and violent crimes task force between 1998 and 2002, said he deeply regretted any distress, dismay or alarm his decision may have caused Mr Brooks, or Mr Lawrence’s parents Doreen and Neville.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has now been asked to carry out a thorough review into the operation of undercover policing and a code of ethics is to be drawn up by the new College of Policing.

The steps, which will be formally announced in the Policing Minister’s speech today, follow the allegations of impropriety by officers in the Lawrence case and others, in which a number of undercover officers are claimed to have had sexual relationships, and even children, with activists they were supposed to be keeping under surveillance.

Campaigners will demonstrate outside Scotland Yard tomorrow to protest against the scandal and lobby for an independent inquiry.

Lois Austin, chair of Youth Against Racism in Europe when it was infiltrated by Mr Francis when he was working on the Lawrence case, said: “It took 18 years for the police to convict any of Stephen Lawrence’s murderers.

“Meanwhile, time and money was being spent searching for ‘dirt’ on a bereaved family, and secretly infiltrating Youth Against Racism in Europe, a peaceful organisation of young people, which was organising mass protests against racism and the BNP.

“There was no purpose to infiltrating YRE, far from being secretive we publicly advertised our events – the police could have read our leaflets and newspapers, or attended our public meetings, to find out what was going on.”