Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Lawrence family to meet Theresa May

The Lawrence family will meet Home Secretary Theresa May on Thursday to ask for a new public inquiry into claims that police secretly hunted for information to smear their campaign, their lawyer has said.

Michael Mansfield QC, who represents the family of murdered student Stephen Lawrence, said they also want the inquiry to investigate all cases of undercover activity carried out by Scotland Yard's former Special Demonstration Squad throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

It follows claims by one of the squad's former undercover officers Peter Francis that he was told to dig up ''dirt'' on the Lawrence family and their campaign for justice after Stephen's death in 1993, as well as allegations that officers secretly bugged meetings they held with the murdered teenager's friend Duwayne Brooks and his lawyers.

Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live, Mr Mansfield said Stephen's father Neville wants to know the truth about the allegations and the now disbanded Special Demonstration Squad, which is already subject to an inquiry.

"What Neville is asking for is an inquiry of the kind we had in the first place looking into, not just the Lawrence case, but all these cases where this (Special Demonstration Squad) has been operating using deceit, it's institutionalised deceit," he said. We're going to see the Home Secretary on Thursday morning, and I can assure the public that that's what we're going to be asking the Home Secretary to be considering, establishing a proper, public, transparent inquiry."

Earlier this week Mrs May said Mr Francis's claims would instead be investigated in two ongoing inquiries - one into the undercover operations of the Special Demonstration Squad and another into alleged police corruption in the original Lawrence inquiry.

Meanwhile, civil liberties and human rights campaigners have called for a new law to be brought in to require police forces to obtain High Court approval for undercover operations in the wake of the Lawrence revelations.

With the backing of Stephen Lawrence's mother Doreen, Liberty has drafted the "Lawrence amendment", which it argues could be tabled as an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill currently going through Parliament.

The reform, which would have to be tabled by one of the MPs on the Bill's committee, would require police forces wishing to deploy undercover operatives to satisfy a High Court judge that it was necessary and proportionate. Authorisation currently takes place under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which allows officers within particular organisations, such as police forces, to authorise the use of agents and informants without external approval.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: "The police should never have been allowed to put imposters in the Lawrence home and these abuses won't stop until they are subject to proper oversight. Liberty has drafted an amendment to the current criminal justice bill, requiring judicial sign-off before undercover cops can be used. Doreen is urging MPs on the bill committee to table and support this change for the better."

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