Father of Stephen Lawrence tells of ‘grave concerns’ about inquiry
Investigators are examining undercover policing with officers said to have infiltrated campaign groups seeking justice for the murdered teenager.
The father of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has said he has “grave concerns” about the inquiry into undercover policing.
Neville Lawrence called on chairman Sir John Mitting to agree to sit as part of a panel rather than alone amid concerns about the number of undercover officers being granted anonymity in inquiry hearings.
This came as a number of women who claim they were deceived into romantic relationships with police moles wrote to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to demand an urgent meeting about the probe.
Last month dozens of campaigners and their lawyers walked out of an inquiry hearing in protest over the number of officers granted anonymity and “scant” reasons for the decision to do so.
Even senior officers who could give evidence about whether my family or I were spied upon have been granted anonymity, meaning they will give their evidence behind closed doors, shrouded in secrecy Neville Lawrence
In a statement issued through his lawyers, Mr Lawrence said: “I have grave concerns about how Chairman Mitting has been handling the anonymity applications by police officers, consistently granting them anonymity after hearing evidence behind closed doors and disclosing almost nothing to the lawyers representing the victims of police spying.
“Even senior officers who could give evidence about whether my family or I were spied upon have been granted anonymity, meaning they will give their evidence behind closed doors, shrouded in secrecy.
“This completely undermines my hopes for this inquiry.”
Undercover officers from Scotland Yard’s special demonstrations squad infiltrated groups linked to the campaign for justice for Mr Lawrence who was murdered in 1993.
Mr Lawrence added: “This is starting to look like anything but a public inquiry.
“If I do not have the cover names of people who were involved in undercover spying operations, I have no way of knowing for myself whether my family, my friends and I were victims and I will be unable to assist the inquiry in getting to the truth.
“The inquiry will be unable to consider anything except the views of the police whose actions they are investigating.
“I feel that Chairman Mitting is so far removed from the experiences of those who have been victims of undercover policing that he should recognise the need to sit with a panel of experts.”
He called upon Mrs Rudd to back moves for Sir John to sit as part of a panel.
The letter from 13 women to the Home Secretary said it is “critical that urgent steps are taken to ensure a panel is appointed to the inquiry which has sufficient expertise and diversity to be able to recognise and challenge sexism, racism and police malpractice.”
The group wrote to Mrs Rudd in September expressing concerns about the inquiry, and say they were told to raise any issues with the chairman.
Their latest letter added: “We remind you that the Inquiry arose from public concern about the serious human rights abuses committed by these secret political policing units.
“We reiterate our request for an urgent meeting with you to discuss what steps can be taken to restore public confidence in this inquiry which was supposed to tackle those abuses.
“The inquiry must be transparent and robust if it is to discover the truth. We presume that you, like us, wish to ensure these human rights abuses are not allowed to happen again.”