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Stephen Lawrence case: Police urged to shelve retirement of senior officer

Published 20/01/2016

Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a gang of racists
Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a gang of racists

Lawyers for the father of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence have made a last ditch attempt to stop the retirement of a senior police officer who is facing a misconduct claim.

Commander Richard Walton, who leaves Scotland Yard today, was accused of meeting with an undercover officer who had gathered information about the Lawrence family during the public inquiry into the teenager's death.

The senior officer's retirement means that he will not face disciplinary proceedings over the claim.

Lawyers for Neville Lawrence have written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe asking him to suspend the officer and stop his retirement.

Police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) previously found that Mr Walton has a case to answer for alleged misconduct over the meeting with the officer.

The lettter from law firm Hodge, Jones and Allen said: "Without any suspension there is a real risk that Commander Walton will avoid sanctions as a result. We consider that the IPCC conclusions provide enough justification that it is in the public interest to suspend Commander Walton immediately in order to allow him to face disciplinary proceedings.

"There is a strong public interest in ensuring that any disciplinary sanctions are followed through, in order that the police are seen to be held accountable for their actions. Permitting Mr Walton to resign would cause serious damage to the reputation of the Metropolitan Police Service."

In 2014 Mr Walton was temporarily moved from his job leading the force's counter-terrorism command, following the publication of a damning report by barrister Mark Ellison QC into the original Lawrence murder investigation.

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, the probe into the appalling failures in how the 18-year-old's racist murder was investigated.

Mr Walton was alleged to have met the undercover officer and ''obtained information pertaining to the Lawrence family and their supporters, potentially undermining the (Macpherson) inquiry and public confidence". It was also claimed that he provided inconsistent accounts to Mr Ellison's review team.

Aspiring architect Mr Lawrence was murdered by racists in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993 and it took nearly 20 years for two of the gang of up to six killers to be brought to justice.

The Ellison report disclosed that in the late 1990s, N81 infiltrated a group which was apparently working to influence the Lawrence family's justice campaign to further its own agenda.

Feedback from N81 to his unit, the shadowy Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), touched on personal details concerning the Lawrence family, such as comments on the separation of Stephen's parents, Doreen and Neville.

It was claimed that a meeting was set up between N81 and Mr Walton, which was described as a ''fascinating and valuable exchange of information''.

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