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Top officer moved after report

A senior counter-terrorism officer has been moved from his "very sensitive post" in the wake of revelations over his links to undercover operations and the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.

Commander Richard Walton has been temporarily removed from his job as head of the counter-terrorism command SO15 following yesterday's publication of Mark Ellison QC's report into the original Lawrence murder probe.

Tonight Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "He has been moved to a different post, and clearly the reason for that is that we had a very significant report published yesterday, the Mark Ellison report, and that made a fairly serious allegation, and I stress it is an allegation.

"He is in a very sensitive post, it's vital that we maintain trust and confidence, so we thought it was wise both for him and for public confidence that he work in a different role and allow him to defend himself. I think we all need to be careful not to leap to judgment."

In a day of dramatic developments following the bombshell report, the head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) also apologised to the Lawrence family for the police watchdog's part in prolonging the "family's search for the truth".

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.

N81 infiltrated a group in the late 1990s, which then sought to influence the Lawrence family campaign to further its own agenda, the Ellison report revealed.

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

A meeting was set up between N81 and Mr Walton, which was described as a "fascinating and valuable exchange of information".

Following Scotland Yard's decision, Mr Walton said: "I welcome any scrutiny of my role in these events over more than 16 years ago, including in the forthcoming public inquiry."

Meanwhile IPCC chair Dame Anne Owers said the Ellison review made it clear that the 2006 IPCC investigation was "wrong" to conclude there was no evidence to suggest Scotland Yard withheld information in relation to corruption from the Macpherson Inquiry into Stephen's death.

She said: "I fully recognise this has prolonged by many years the Lawrence family's search for the truth about the failed investigation into their son's murder. I have today written to Baroness Lawrence and Mr Lawrence to apologise for our part in this."

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Paul Condon denied authorising undercover police officers to target the Lawrence family.

The peer, who held the top post at Scotland Yard between 1993 and 2000, release a statement that said: "I have read the reports by Mark Ellison QC and (Derbyshire) Chief Constable (Mick) Creedon and I am in broad agreement with their findings. I also fully support the further action outlined by the Home Secretary.

"I confirm and restate the comments I made in the House of Lords last month - that at no stage did I ever authorise, or encourage, or know about any action by any undercover officer in relation to Mr and Mrs Lawrence or their friends or supporters or the Macpherson Inquiry hearings.

"Had I known, I would have stopped this action immediately as inappropriate.

"I made this statement in the House of Lords because for me it is the equivalent of saying it on oath and I am aware of the full consequences of any attempt to mislead the House of Lords.

"Similarly, I always wished the Macpherson Inquiry to have full access to all relevant information and documents held by the MPS and was dismayed and saddened to read the findings about the alleged withholding of information.

"I will continue to do all in my power to support the ongoing investigations into these matters. And I realise the enormous anxiety and concern that these fresh allegations will generate with Mr and Mrs Lawrence and their supporters."

Mr Ellison also found that one of the officers in the original investigation into Stephen's death, detective sergeant John Davidson, may have acted corruptly.

It was claimed that he had links to Clifford Norris, the gangland boss father of David Norris, one of the two men who were finally convicted in 2012 of the teenager's racist murder.

Sir Bernard said he would "assist in any way possible" with any investigation into the claims. He plans to appoint an independent investigator to search Met archives to try to find any available evidence for the public inquiry into undercover policing.

"The risk is we look hard but fail to find something we should discover. I've got to reassure people that I'm looking properly. What I intend to do to help that inquiry is to appoint an independent person to lead an independent multi-disciplinary team to search this organisation physically and on computers, and any way we can, to help those inquiries find any evidence available."

Police and prosecutors are now potentially facing a raft of claims that defendants were unjustly convicted when undercover officers were involved in their cases.

Sir Bernard said: "What the Home Secretary has asked is for Mark Ellison to continue his review in particular at least 25 cases where it is said that undercover officers appeared in court without revealing their identity. It's a very serious issue because it may have led potentially to miscarriages of justice."


From Belfast Telegraph