Met Police chief 'handling Lawrence smear claims in right way'

Met Police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who is today meeting the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence about claims the force attempted to smear her family, has been praised for his handling of the situation so far.

Met Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe will meet Doreen Lawrence at New Scotland Yard today
Met Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe will meet Doreen Lawrence at New Scotland Yard today

The commissioner has made a number of media appearances this week since The Guardian reported the claims of former undercover officer Peter Francis on Monday.

Francis said he had been asked by his superiors to find ‘dirt’ on the Lawrence family shortly after the racist murder of Stephen in 1993.

Tim Morris, who was a Met press officer between 1993 and 1999 and is now associate director at comms agency Linstock, suggested the case haunted the force’s reputation and the claims risk reopening old wounds.

‘The Lawrence case is a significant one in Met history because it failed to do its job properly the first time around,’ he said. ‘It captured the attention of the media, the public and politicians. It has ultimately been a force for good on the police, which is why it’s so damaging for them that further allegations should come back years later.’

The force’s comms team is conscious the claims push the ongoing investigation into the activities of the now disbanded covert unit, the Special Demonstration Squad, up to a higher level of sensitivity.

Its focus is on acknowledging the seriousness of the allegations and explaining how the investigations into the unit are proceeding.

Hogan-Howe wrote that the allegation ‘casts a terrible shadow’ over his force in an article in yesterday’s London Evening Standard and explained he has asked for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to consider it.

In reference to Doreen Lawrence’s demands for a public inquiry, he wrote: ‘I am confident the police investigation [overseen by Derbyshire’s chief constable] has the powers and expertise it needs, while the IPCC’s role provides independent oversight. But if Parliament chooses to call a public inquiry, then the Met would offer all possible assistance.’

Today, he is set to meet Doreen Lawrence privately at New Scotland Yard.

Hogan-Howe’s article followed his scheduled appearances at the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee yesterday, and on a live LBC radio phone-in on Tuesday. On Monday, he gave a pooled TV interview.

Morris, who heads Linstock’s criminal justice practice, praised Hogan-Howe’s reaction, saying: ‘The commissioner can do two things. Firstly to demand the highest ethical standards from police officers, which he’s done. He’s condemned the alleged behaviour completely and said it is totally unacceptable.

‘Secondly, when such allegations come to light, it’s important to treat them so there’s no suggestion of any kind of cover-up. He’s done that in terms of referring it to the IPCC.

‘He has done them in a high profile way and he hasn’t left it to a more junior officer to speak to the media.’

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