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Will Pitchford Inquiry hear police evidence in secret? – Hearing starts this week

Neville Lawrence calls for full openness and transparency

The Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing will this week hear evidence relating to the extent to which the inquiry will be held behind closed doors.

In a two-day hearing, starting on Tuesday 22 March, the Inquiry Chair, Lord Justice Pitchford, will examine whether police officers will be able to give evidence in secret and whether those giving evidence will be permitted to answer questions concerning undercover operations with the stock response of “neither confirm nor deny”. It will also deal with whether the cover names of undercover officers involved in spying operations will be released.

Neville Lawrence, father of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, is a core participant in the inquiry and alongside his legal team successfully campaigned for a judicial inquiry into the actions of undercover officers. In a statement issued through his solicitors, Hodge Jones & Allen, Neville Lawrence, says:

“For over 20 years I have seen the Metropolitan Police fail time and again to be open and honest on matters concerning myself and my family. The Pitchford Inquiry is an opportunity to get to the truth of how undercover police operated, including the infiltration of our campaign for justice, yet it appears that attempts are being made to persuade the Inquiry to restrict public access to information.

“Such restrictions, including the police seeking to rely on a policy of neither confirming nor denying whether an individual was an undercover police officer, would make it impossible to get answers for victims, many of whom still do not know for sure whether they were targets of undercover policing. For victims to move on from these traumatic events and for the police wrongdoing to be brought to light Lord Pitchford must hold an open and transparent inquiry.”

Jocelyn Cockburn, civil liberties partner at Hodge Jones & Allen represents Neville Lawrence, she says:

“If this Inquiry is to be effective and fulfil its terms of reference, it must be open and transparent. It simply cannot function without open consideration of the evidence and if police evidence is only heard in secret, as they are arguing for, the inquiry will do nothing to allay public concern.

“Mr Lawrence believes firmly in the concept of open justice – he has learned the hard way that a lack of scrutiny and transparency prevents justice and he feels that this inquiry must be open to public scrutiny if it is to succeed in its aims to investigate wrongdoing and to learn lessons for the future.”

The two-day hearing will be heard in Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice. Following the hearing, Lord Pitchford’s decision will be made public on 15 April.

Notes for Editors

Hodge Jones and Allen

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About Jocelyn Cockburn

Jocelyn Cockburn is a leading Civil Liberties lawyer and in 2012 was awarded Partner of the Year by The Lawyer magazine. She represents many individuals who have actions against the police, including: Neville Lawrence, the father of murdered teenage Stephen Lawrence in various on-going inquiries into the conduct of the London Metropolitan Police and has also represented the Pilkington family against Leicestershire Police Force’s failure to protect Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her severely disabled daughter in 2007 after years of torment by youths.