Parents of Stephen Lawrence ‘losing confidence’ in undercover policing inquiry
The parents of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence are losing confidence in the public inquiry into undercover policing, their lawyers have said.
In an opening statement for Stephen’s mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Imran Khan QC said that she doubts the investigation will discover why her family was spied on by undercover police.
He said: “Baroness Lawrence is losing confidence, if she has not already lost it, in this inquiry’s ability to get to the truth.
“The truth as to why she, her family and supporters were spied upon by the police.
This inquiry is not delivering on what she was promised and is not achieving what she expected
“This inquiry is not delivering on what she was promised and is not achieving what she expected.”
The sentiment was echoed by Heather Williams QC, representing Stephen’s father Dr Neville Lawrence, who said: “The progress of this inquiry to date does not lead him to feel confidence in its approach or in its outcome.
“In order for him to draw a line under these terrible events, it is very important to Dr Lawrence that he is able to participate in a fully transparent inquiry, capable of establishing the truth of what happened and capable of learning the lessons necessary to prevent reoccurrence.”
The Lawrences also both raised concerns about the number of police officers and staff who have been granted anonymity – currently the cover names of 51 officers must remain secret, along with 119 of the real names of officers and staff.
Ms Williams said that if the family are at least given the officers’ cover names, they will be able to give evidence about what the police spies did.
So far, one has been published – David Hagan – but there are four others who remain anonymous that Dr Lawrence would like identified.
Baroness Lawrence believes it was only the public nature of the Macpherson Inquiry into her son’s death that meant that the incompetence and racism in the Metropolitan Police was exposed.
Mr Khan said: “The fact that the Metropolitan Police and the individual officers have made applications for anonymity and, more importantly, that they have been granted, is a travesty and goes against everything that a public inquiry stands for and what Baroness Lawrence expected.
“It appears to her that this inquiry is more interested in protecting the alleged perpetrators than the victims.”
The Lawrences also both called on inquiry chairman Sir John Mitting to appoint panel members to help him focus on issues including racism, in the same way as the inquiry into their son’s death in the 1990s.
Stephen was murdered by a gang of racists in 1993, and incompetence and racism in the police marred the original investigation into his death.
Nearly 20 years later, two of his killers, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were finally jailed, but the remaining three suspects never faced justice.
It also emerged that undercover officers had spied on the family’s campaign for justice, with whistleblower Peter Francis claiming he had been tasked with finding “dirt” on the Lawrences and their supporters.
Mr Khan said: “For any parent to have to outlive their child is unimaginable – to lose their child in such circumstances is inconceivable; to still be fighting for justice 27 years on is unacceptable; and for those parents to be fighting for justice while being spied upon by the police, whose very role was to support and protect them, is simply unforgiveable.”
His opening statement included powerful words from Baroness Lawrence, that read: “No one can truly understand the sheer depth of the heartache I have felt.
“Many have thought that I have courted press attention and profited from it – the reality is that I long for anonymity and would give up all that I have just to go back to the seconds before Stephen’s death and prevent it.
“I am just an ordinary person. I have nothing special that deserves public attention or acclaim. I simply ask for justice.’
Both he and Ms Williams ended their statements by urging Sir John not to fail Stephen’s family as has happened in the past.
Mr Khan said: “You now have the choice of either being one of those in the long line of those that failed Baroness Lawrence or those very few that did not.”
Ms Williams told the inquiry: “Dr Lawrence has been failed so badly by the state over so many years, as we have shown.
“He very much hopes that he will not have a similar experience with this inquiry.”