The British government has ordered a second major inquiry into the role of the police following “profoundly shocking” new revelations of the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence two decades ago.
The move on Thursday follows a fresh review which reveals further concerns about the police’s actions, namely their use of undercover officers to spy on the Lawrence family as they campaigned for justice.
The Macpherson inquiry in 1999 found the police investigation into Lawrence’s murder six years earlier was seriously flawed and marred by “institutional racism”, a finding viewed as a watershed moment in British race relations.
Now, the new government-commissioned review found that London’s Metropolitan Police had an agent working close to the Lawrence family who passed information to the officers compiling the police submission to the Macpherson inquiry.
The review by leading lawyer Mark Ellison also found evidence to suggest that one of the officers involved in investigating Lawrence’s murder was corrupt.
However, Ellison said he was unable to confirm or deny claims made by one undercover policeman that he had been tasked to find intelligence to “smear” the Lawrence family after the murder.
’21 years overdue’
In a statement to the House of Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May said the findings were “profoundly shocking” and announced a judge-led public inquiry into the work of undercover police.
“Stephen Lawrence was murdered over 20 years ago and it is deplorable that his family have had to wait so many years for the truth to emerge. Indeed, it is still emerging,” she told lawmakers.
“Understandably many of us thought that the Macpherson Inquiry had answered all the questions surrounding the investigation into Stephen’s death.
“But the findings I have set out today are profoundly disturbing….We must act now to redress these wrongs.”
Lawrence’s father Neville said the findings were “21 years overdue”, but he said he was not sure he could sit through another inquiry into his son’s death.
“It is very painful. While all this has been happening, our family has been destroyed,” he said, referring to his split from Lawrence’s mother, Doreen, and his move to Jamaica.
The teenager was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths at a London bus stop on April 22, 1993.
Five suspects were arrested within days, but state prosecutors concluded that there was insufficient evidence to progress with murder charges for any of them.
Two of the men, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted in January 2012 on the basis of new forensic evidence and sent to jail for a minimum of 15 and 14 years respectively.