Ex-police boss 'would have faced misconduct probe' over Stephen Lawrence case
A former police boss who controversially met an undercover officer during the Stephen Lawrence inquiry would have faced disciplinary proceedings if he had not been allowed to retire, a watchdog has said.
Ex-Metropolitan Police Commander Richard Walton "would have had a case to answer for misconduct" if he was still a serving officer, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found.
In January, lawyers for Stephen's father, Neville Lawrence, made a last-ditch, and unsuccessful, attempt to stop Mr Walton retiring so that he could face misconduct claims.
On Wednesday Mr Lawrence said it was "wholly wrong" that the senior officer was allowed to leave, and that it "totally undermines public confidence in the police".
In 2014 a damning report by barrister Mark Ellison QC revealed that in 1998, when Mr Walton was an acting Detective Inspector working on Scotland Yard's final submissions to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, he had met with an undercover officer known as N81.
It was alleged that Mr Walton ''obtained information pertaining to the Lawrence family and their supporters, potentially undermining the inquiry and public confidence".
It has previously been claimed that N81 told Mr Walton that Stephen's parents had separated, although the IPCC found no evidence of this.
The watchdog said both Mr Walton and former undercover officer Bob Lambert, who helped arrange the meeting, would have had a case to answer for misconduct.
However they would not have faced claims of gross misconduct, which could have meant being sacked, because they were acting on the orders of their superiors.
Neville Lawrence called for Lord Justice Pitchford's public inquiry into undercover policing to look at the chain of command above the officers who gained information about his family.
In a statement through his lawyers, Hodge Jones and Allen, he said: "The IPCC report makes it clear that my family were wrongly spied upon by police during the Macpherson Inquiry in 1998.
"I am glad that they have made findings of a case to answer for misconduct; however, the Pitchford Inquiry now needs to look into this matter in more detail and to find out at what level of seniority within the Metropolitan Police this spying was sanctioned.
"I have made no secret of the fact that I think it is wholly wrong that former Commander Walton was so recently allowed to retire and will avoid the disciplinary process he should have faced.
"I have long felt that allowing officers to retire to avoid disciplinary action totally undermines public confidence in the police. The police and the IPCC should have ensured that this investigation was concluded in good time to ensure that former Commander Walton could not have avoided disciplinary proceedings."
Bob Lambert has faced separate claims that he entered relationships with women who did not know he was an undercover cop; appeared in court using a false name and assumed a false identity using the name of a dead child.
IPCC deputy chairwoman Sarah Green said: "During the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, the honesty and integrity of the Metropolitan Police was rightly under intense public scrutiny. The force's reputation may have suffered immense damage had the meeting become public knowledge at the time.
"The IPCC found that Robert Lambert and Richard Walton both had a case to answer for discreditable conduct in that their actions could have brought the force into disrepute."
Scotland Yard said it does not accept that either officer would have faced misconduct proceedings in 1998.
A spokesman said: "The Commission's findings acknowledge the meeting may have been legitimate and that the evidence suggests Mr Walton had been asked to attend by a senior officer.
"We believe that if the evidence points towards the meeting being legitimate or there is insufficient evidence that it was not legitimate then there could be no finding of misconduct, gross or otherwise, for either officer."
The "mere possibility" of a public backlash had the meeting been revealed in 1998 is also not "sufficient in itself to have found a case to answer for misconduct", the force said.
The force has maintained that its undercover officers infiltrated protest groups that could have caused public disorder.
Mr Walton said: "It has taken the IPCC two years to investigate a single meeting I attended as a Sergeant 18 years ago.
"The report makes clear that no information was passed to me about either the Lawrence family or its campaign. The Met formally rejected the IPCC's findings about me and did not plan to bring misconduct proceedings.
"In making its finding the IPCC has failed to understand racist crime and violent public disorder in London in 1998. The public have a right to be protected from groups who commit serious violent disorder. I have always made that my priority."