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Ex-police chief faces IPCC probe

Former police chief Sir Norman Bettison will be investigated by a watchdog over claims he tried to influence the way a witness gave evidence at the public inquiry following the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said police systems may have been misused and that it would investigate whether commissioning a report on the witness to the Macpherson Inquiry was racially motivated.

However it also said that former undercover officer Peter Francis, who has claimed Metropolitan Police officers were told to look for information to smear the Lawrence family, has yet to respond to the watchdog's request to speak to him.

He has already refused to speak to chief constable Mick Creedon, who is leading a police investigation into the activities of officers from Scotland Yard's Special Demonstration Squad.

Sir Norman, former chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, was referred to the IPCC by the county's police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson earlier this month.

IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass said: "From the evidence provided in support of the referral, although there is a suggestion that the reason for carrying out the research was to risk assess the likelihood of any public disorder, the intelligence gathering requested appears to have been both inappropriate and intrusive.

"In the absence of legitimate justification for the research there is an indication of misuse of police information systems and unlawful processing of the witness's (sensitive) personal data by all involved. This would be a clear indication of recordable conduct concerning this tasking.

"This matter therefore requires investigation. The investigation should also consider whether the tasking was motivated or influenced by racial discrimination."

Claims made by Mr Francis about the Lawrence family, and the teenager's friend Duwayne Brooks, were also referred to the IPCC, but Ms Glass said they cannot yet be properly assessed. Mr Creedon told MPs there is no evidence to back the allegations and a review into claims of corruption in the first investigation into Stephen's murder is not due to finish until the end of the year.

The watchdog found no evidence of misconduct at Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire Police in relation to the case.

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