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Neville Lawrence urges full transparency from Pitchford Inquiry following today’s IPCC report

Following its independent investigation into the conduct of former Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers, an IPCC report has today said former officers, Commander Richard Walton and Detective Inspector Robert Lambert would have a case to answer for misconduct if they were still serving.

The IPCC reviewed allegations that Richard Walton (then an acting Detective Inspector) met with an undercover officer from the MPS Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) known as N81, and obtained information about the Lawrence family and their supporters at the time of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in 1998. These allegations were especially troubling due to the fact that Walton was working on the MPS Lawrence Review Team and was involved in preparing the MPS final submission to the Inquiry.

Robert Lambert was found to have a case to answer for misconduct for his part in arranging the meeting and Richard Walton’s case involved his attendance at the meeting which was only identified by the Ellison Review in March 2014. Mark Ellison QC identified evidence and branded the meeting “wholly inappropriate” before the matter was declared subject of an IPCC independent investigation in May 2014 (see note to editors). Walton was further investigated by the IPCC for providing inconsistent accounts to Ellison when he was undertaking his Independent Review.

A primary reason why a more serious gross misconduct finding was not found to be appropriate is because the IPCC accepted that Lambert and Walton would have been acting under the instructions of more senior officers. It was accepted that the evidence shows Walton was asked to attend the meeting and Lambert arranged the meeting at the request of their superiors, however the IPCC note that “it has not been possible…to identify who in his chain of command asked him to arrange the meeting”.

Speaking from his home in Jamaica, Neville Lawrence has issued the following response through his lawyers, Hodge Jones & Allen:

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.

“In my 23 years of experience of the Metropolitan Police it has often been evident that had they been open about misconduct then it could have saved everybody a lot of heartache over the years. However, I see no sign that they are taking a more open approach to the Inquiry as they are currently seeking to persuade the Inquiry to restrict public access to information and rely on a policy of neither confirming nor denying whether an individual was an undercover police officer.”

Jocelyn Cockburn, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen and represents Neville Lawrence, says:

The IPCC has made findings of misconduct despite submissions from the Metropolitan Police setting out reasons for the IPCC to find no misconduct on the part of any office. This position does the Police no credit, and nor does the failure to prevent the retirement of Commander Walton. It is hard to see how the Metropolitan Police can expect victims of wrongdoing to have confidence that they want to learn lessons from wrongdoing or misconduct if they continue to allow officers to escape proper scrutiny for their actions.

“The IPCC’s findings are limited by a lack of evidence of the inevitable involvement of senior officers in the SDS decisions relating to this case. However, the Pitchford Inquiry will have far wider powers to compel witnesses and disclosure in order to obtain evidence to properly identify chains of command etc.

“Mr Lawrence is now focusing his attention on the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing. He sincerely hopes that the truth will come out and the extent to which undercover policing affected his family, and other victims, is revealed. The IPCC investigation has not been able to identify at what level the sanctioning of these activities took place but it is clear that more senior officers knew of and sanctioned this activating and in fact, allowed the ‘culture’ within the SDS to develop which led to acts of ‘impropriety’.

“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. He is concerned about attempts by the police to persuade the Inquiry not to release names and evidence about undercover officers which would inevitably lead to an almost entirely secret inquiry.”

Notes for Editors

Lambert had already retired prior to the IPCC investigation leaving Walton as the only potentially accountable officer in respect of disciplinary proceedings. Regrettably, the length of the IPCC investigation meant that Walton was allowed to retire from the MPS before any misconduct hearings could take place. Walton’s retirement was allowed despite representations made by Hodge Jones & Allen to the current MPS Commissioner to take immediate action and suspend Walton so that he could face disciplinary proceedings.

The IPCC report also investigated allegations of discreditable conduct on the part of three other former MPS officers, including former commander Colin Black, who was identified by Ellison as having played a part in facilitating the meeting with the undercover officer, however the IPCC found they had no case to answer.

The MPS in their response to the IPCC dated 19 January 2016 sought to justify its officers actions and unlike the IPCC found no misconduct. The letter from TDCI Donna Smith stated:“I conclude that there is no case to answer for gross misconduct or misconduct” either on the part of Robert Lambert or Richard Walton. Nevertheless the IPCC stood by their findings.

The matters subject to this IPCC investigation are only a part of the matters of concern to Mr Lawrence as they are restricted to the later period of the Macpherson Inquiry. However, concerns regarding undercover policing were raised following revelations from former SDS officer, Peter Francis, who stated that he went undercover to infiltrate the Lawrence family’s campaign for justice and find intelligence to ‘smear’ the family following Stephen’s murder. Mr Lawrence successfully campaigned for a judicial inquiry and he is currently a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry led by Lord Justice Pitchford. This inquiry is investigating allegations which include that the SDS were tasked with discovering information about the Lawrence family, which could be used to smear them during the months after Stephen’s death, and at the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

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