Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Stephen Lawrence Conspiracy.

Stephen Lawrence: Will the Metropolitan Police ever tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Recent news that the family and supporters of the Stephen Lawrence campaign were subjected to covert police intelligence surveillance with a view to criminalising, smearing and undermining the credibility of all those associated with the Lawrence campaign for justice has shocked the nation. That the police may have targeted family of Stephen Lawrence family in this way is utterly reprehensible and an offence to all decent people. 

The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) covert unit based in Special Branch at New Scotland Yard. I was Policing Director for London for 8 years and at no point during that time was I ever made aware of the existence of this SDS unit. The unit was disbanded in 2008.  

This fact may or may not matter a great deal one way or the other, however the larger and more important questions that this prompts are, who in Government and which senior Met officers were aware or sanctioned the activities of this alleged ‘force within a force’? How many covert Met units exist that the public know nothing about and what is their function? Now fresh claims are emerging from McPherson Inquiry panel members, the Bishop of York John Sentamu and Dr Richard Stone they both believed they were also the targets of covert police surveillance, a simply devastating claim if true. 

SDS was a secret-police unit that employed undercover officers and registered informants to spy on campaign leaders or so called ‘radicals’. Such units have a history of employing agent provocateurs to incite campaigning groups to engage in criminal acts where upon they are usually arrested. Secret police have a history of opening mails, hacking telephone conversations and email; breaking into homes and offices, conducting covert surveillance, usually operate outside the rule of law.

In 2009 another such unit was set up, the Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU) which has the power to operate across the UK and mounts surveillance and run informers on ‘domestic extremists’. Its main job seems to  be to build up a detailed picture of so called ‘radical campaigners’. The new and damaging allegation that the SDS was tasked to ‘dig dirt’ on the Lawrence’s is beyond the pale and has left most right thinking people sick to their core.

The Home Secretary told the House of Commons that these matter should be investigated by two separate inquiry teams. MPS investigation Operation Hearne that is looking at the practice of undercover officers using the identities of dead children, the infiltration of environmental groups and the fact that MPS officers formed relationships and went onto to have children with green campaigners, whilst a Barrister is investigating the allegations that police corruption caused the initial failure of the MPS to prosecute Stephens Lawrence killers.

How a family who lost their son in a bloody and vicious racist gang murder, can be seen by the MPS as the ‘ enemy’ is testimony to the powerful culture of institutionalised racism that exited then and I believe still exists within the MPS.

The failure of the Met to inform the then Mayor of London about the work of this unit sets a hugely dangerous precedent that cannot be tolerated in a modern democracy. Unless in the unlikely event that the then Mayor Ken Livingstone was told and did not tell me. 

London Mayor Boris Johnson should be worried. To what extent is he confident that he knows all of the covert undercover policing operations that are taking place on his watch? It’s a questions important enough to keep you awake at night.

Unbelievably none of the information about the activities of the SDS squad was presented to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry conducted by Sir William McPherson. The decision to withhold this information from the Inquiry must have been taken at the very highest level in both the Met police and Government. These implications of this decision to subvert the process of a public inquiry are simply staggering.

That critical evidence was withheld that could have supported and illuminated the Lawrence’s search for the truth in discovering the detail of the Mets appalling mishandling of the investigation into the racist murder of their son,  is nothing short of scandalous. Such corruption cuts right to the heart of the notion of the democratic and public accountability of the Metropolitan Police Service. The popular charge is that the police are ‘a law to themselves’ a charge so serious in its import that it cannot be relegated to some desktop internal investigation.

It is alleged that the SDS targeted all those organisations that supported the Stephen Lawrence campaign, organisations such as the National Black Caucus, the Anti Racist Alliance, the Brian Douglas Justice Campaign and Newham Monitoring Project cam in for special attention.

These are incredibly serious charges. In addition to seeking to smear the Lawrence family and their supporters, there was it seems to a determined attempt by the MPS to falsely jail and undermine Duwayne Brookes that may have led directly to the eventual collapse of the first prosecution of Stephens’s killers.

Duwayne was pushed to the point where he suffered incredibly as a result of the activities of the Met who were determined to crush him. They falsely arrested him on ‘trumped” up charges and bugged meetings with him and his lawyers. His life was almost ruined by a corrupt Metropolitan Police Service seeking to take him out in order to protect their tarnished reputations. 

The implications are  serious, absolutely clear and worth repeating. The Mets targeting of Duwayne may have directly resulted in the collapse of the initial prosecution of Stephens killers.

Both Neville and Doreen Lawrence have rightly demanded a public inquiry and you can support that demand by singing this e-petition calling on the Prime Minister agree to a full independent judicial led inquiry here  Nearly 100,000 people have signed so far. 

The Home Secretary Theresa May has told Doreen that ‘ all options are open’.  We should make it absolutely clear to this Government that there is only one credible option that is acceptable to the British public and that is a judge led independent inquiry.

Over the last few days we have seen referrals to the Independent Police Commission from Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire Police.

Sir Norman Bettison
former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, already on the rack for his part in the Hillsborough disaster is now accused of seeking to influence witnesses appearing before the Mcpherson inquiry in Bradford. The evidence seems to be that there was a national effort by British Police to undermine the McPherson inquiry. That suggests that such an effort had to have political support at the very highest level 

We cannot allow the Government any political space to evade that most obvious of conclusions. There can be no retreat form this basic demand to ensure that the Lawrence family finally are told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This requires total disclosure by the MPS.

Of course,  over the course of the next few days, we will hear from senior police officers and Government politicians who, given the scale of the allegations are unable to do anything other than promise a ‘inquiry’ of some sort but who are fighting shy of a full judicial public inquiry. 

Tellingly in the current Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe has changed his position.  Speaking on LBC’s Radio he initially (albeit reluctantly) supported the call for a public inquiry.

Within two days his position had hardened, no doubt as a consequence of further discussions among his Senior Command Team and the Mayor of London who privately see another public Inquiry
as an anathema.

Hogan Howe expressed his opposition to the Greater London Authority Police and Crime Committee where he expressed ‘ full confidence’ in the internal inquiry process.

This resistance to a public judge led inquiry in large part relates to an almost ideological hatred of both the senior ranks of the Metropolitan Police Service and leading Conservatives, like Boris Johnson and Theresa May of all things Mcpherson.

Race equality has fallen completely off the political Governments agenda largely because of the overriding Coalition Government political preference to close down and minimise all meaningful discussion and effective action on the issues of racism and race equality.

In response the Home Secretary has recently announced a national 6-week consultation on the issue of the police use of stop and search no doubt timed to placate wider concern about this spy claim. I believe that this constitutes nothing more than cynical damage limitation exercise. The objective is to falsely convey the impression that this Government ‘cares’ about race equality and to distract the public.

So I predict that there will be massive political resistance, behind closed doors by Government, the Mayor of London, the Metropolitan Police Service to granting the Lawrence’s another public inquiry.

They will, as politics and good manners dictate, remain at least publically sympathetic simply to the Lawrence demands. This is because they have no real choice; the Lawrence’s have both moral authority and public support.

Nevertheless they will seek to convince both the Lawrence’s and the general public that such a public inquiry is an unnecessary, expensive and lengthy process. They will argue that the internal inquiries could be ‘ beefed up” to provide some elements of public inquiry and be no less exacting a search for the truth.

They will question the wisdom of an inquiry citing issues such as, costs, effectiveness, timeliness and the length of time an inquiry will take.  All will utilised to seek to undermine the central demand for a public inquiry.

Let me make clear from my perspective and on behalf of those organisations that may have been subjected to covert police surveillance. Only a full public judicial inquiry will satisfy the need to bring final closure to the Lawrence family.

This is important because the Lawrence family need final closure on all the circumstances surrounding the failed initial investigation by the MPS into Stephens’s murder. These recent allegations are cruel and vile punishments for the family. They have become repeat victims of institutional racism and the complete inability of the MPS to disclose tells the truth.

Each continued new revelation is yet another grievous assault on them. The pain etched into the faces of Doreen and Neville Lawrence is heartbreaking. On each occasion, over the last 20 years, just when they believed that they knew everything they needed to know, they are subjected to yet more revelations that deepen and aggravate their pain.

A full judicial public Inquiry is what they deserve, what they need psychologically, emotionally and in accordance with the rules of natural justice, to finally put these matters to rest.  Politicians and the Commissioner should be warned, those who are seen to be refusing the justice the Lawrence's and their supporters demand by way of a judicial public inquiry will not be forgiven by the mass of the people and will be held to account.

Such an inquiry will also allow for the full exploration of all the allegations that “ black campaign groups ‘ were targeted and deal with the complex ethical and legal issues that arise in the course of any inquiry into these issues.  Such an inquiry must have the absolute judicial power to summons individuals and all the necessary evidence required in a open public forum.

The facts for a judicial public inquiry are compelling. What we now know is the Met had a covert unit that was off the radar, uncountable and operating in secret according to its own rules.

I believe that this unit operated with the full knowledge and agreement of the then Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon who has real form in this area . It is inconceivable in my experience that the Sir Paul Condon did not know about the activities of his officers in dealing with the most explosive racial murder seen in decades. Why do I think that? 

Sir Paul Condon has real and serious form in conducting this type of policing operation. His involvement in attempting to ‘fit up’ of Franck Crichlow of the Mangrove Community Association with class A drugs is legendary among London’s Black communities.

There will also be questions for the former Director of the Mets Racial and Violent Crime Task Force John Grieve. We know that the suspect’s family home was covertly bugged. We know that Duwayne Brooks meetings between his solicitor and Met detectives were bugged and secretly recorded did John Grieve authorise this?

Were the Lawrence’s meetings with the Met or Government bugged? Were their home, offices or telephone conversations bugged?  Were supporters of the family such as myself in addition to many others the target of such surveillance? Was the Justice for Brian Douglas Family Campaign similarly spied upon? How many of the Black Justice campaigns of the day were covertly monitored?

Met Senior Officer John Grieve has to answer as to what he knew and whether he personally authorised any covert surveillance.

What was the role of the then Home Secretary Michael Howard? What did the Government of the day know about the activities of the SDS squad? Did the John Major Government of the day sign of the activities of the Met?  

Did former Home Secretary Jack Straw at the time of the McPherson Inquiry have any knowledge of the activities of the Mets SDS squad given its overtly political role?

The reality is that these and other critical questions need urgent answers.

According to the allegations made in the Guardian
by a former police officer Peter Francis who served in the Special Demonstration Squad a secret police unit based within the Metropolitan Police Service Special Branch unit was tasked with targeting 'black justice campaigns'.

The job of the SDS unit, a force within a force, was to disrupt, undermine and where possible uncover information on the Lawrence’s or their supporters that could used against us in any way.

As one of Britain’s most controversial Black activists I have always believed that the organisations I have had the honour of working with, have been the subject to covert police or state surveillance.

This sort of attention goes along with the territory when one is constantly challenging the failure of successive governments to tackle institutional racism in general and British police in particular.

The National Black Caucus was the most radical Black organisation of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Created after the uprising of 1986 the NBC became the most vocal and largest Black organisations in the UK. At its high point we were holding three-day residential black power conferences of over 1500 African, Asian and Caribbean people.

Based on the principle of black self-organisation the NBC set the standard for national community activism. We wanted to avoid the staid and restrictive constitutional rigour mortis that beset most organisations of the times that often led fractious elections seeking to secure position and control and ultimately organisational paralysis.

Learning from the US we determined we were a action network and did not need to have a constitution or elected leadership.  The only way you could become a leading member of the NBC is by doing the work.

We also removed one of the other major issues of contention among black organisations that of finance and money. We decided that under no circumstances would we accept any Government money.

In many ways we were one the early precursors of the Occupy movements. We were simply a flat structure with no formal leadership, no address, no bank account, no membership, and no head office.

This structure was adopted for two main reasons: one was that as radicals we saw what happened both in the US and in the UK where black organisations who aped white organisational structure were brought low by internal disputes; second organisations such as ours were often targeted by state agencies and the police whose infiltration and disruption tactics either focused on money, crime and corruption.

We knew that in order to be true to our cause we needed to learn the lessons of the past and avoid some of the bear traps set out for radical black campaigning organisations.

In 1993 the NBC was one of the major organisations that were supporting the Lawrence’s at the time of Stephens’s murder and as the London regional rep I was the key contact point between the NBC and the Lawrence family.

I was also deeply involved in the Rolan Adams Campaign and Justice for Brian Douglas Campaign a young man who was stopped by the police and was violently arrested after being hit over the head by a police baton in Kennington South London. Finally I was an executive member of the national anti racist campaigning organisation the Anti Racist Alliance.

Peter Francis has now confirmed that all these organisations were included on a list of so called ‘ extremist’ organisations that the police were desperate to infiltrate and undermine.

These attempts by the Metropolitan Police Service to criminalise lawful justice campaigns sprang from the tactics first employed in Northern Ireland and then the Miners Strike. Both were heavily borrowed from the American FBI’s Cointellpro 1960’s strategy of infiltration and disruption of the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement.

On reflection I can recall that during the mid 1990’s  I was the victim of a serious assault. Despite serious injury I ended up being charged by the MPS. This represented what I believe was a covert attempt to influence the judicial process to ensure that I was jailed as soon as possible. This was confirmed when although the jury unanimously acquitted me of all charges, the sitting Judge publically condemned me, spoke of the lengthy sentence he would have given me had I been found guilty and demanded that even though I was found not guilty, that I accept a ‘bind over’ and be held in the court cells until I agreed. I then began to realise that the MPS and the State were, in fact really out to get me.

Trade unions. faith groups and community organisations must now bring maximise public pressure to bear, to ensure both the Home Secretary and Prime Minister David Cameron have no choice but to concede to our demands.

Those in power should under no illusion that level of anger that these revelations have provoked. Black Londoners have virtually no trust or confidence in the Met our relationship is the worst it’s been for 30 years. Nothing other than a full judicial public inquiry will suffice.

The Lawrence’s have been forced to revisit the murder of their son after being reassured by the MPS that all the information in their possession was presented in full to the Mcpherson inquiry.

That was a lie and someone high up in the Met or Government ordered that this information be withheld from the inquiry.

To what extent can the public now hove confidences that other public inquiries have not been similarly compromised? One cannot overstate the serious implications if these allegations are proved to be true and worryingly they have the ring of truth about them. There are very many vested interests who must share a consensus that under no circumstances must there be a public inquiry.

For the Lawrence’s the pain of this current revelation can be seen deeply etched, carved into every line and crevices on their faces. Having spent years campaigning for justice the thought of the Lawrence being forced to campaign again to secure a public inquiry is completely unacceptable. If they are forced to do so by this Government this would represent the most grievous insult to them and the wider community. They are tired, they are emotionally exhausted and they deserve opaque transparency and full disclosure of all the facts.
They have campaigned enough over the last 20 years and it would be an outrage if they was forced to do so again now. Politicians should take note

Those of us who were identified as ‘ extremists’ and targeted by this unit or indeed any other Met unit need to know the full extent of that effort and need sight of all of our personal files. What role did successive Governments play in sanctioning the activities in the SDS?

Both the Lawrence’s and supporters deserve nothing less than the complete disclosure and accountability that a judicial inquiry provides.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson and the MPS Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe must now accept that among London’s black communities the reputation of the Metropolitan Police Service is shattered and broken.

He must accept that our relationship is now toxic and is heading for radioactive meltdown. He, the Commissioner and the Home Secretary must accept that if this situation is not to explode in a nuclear reaction urgent action is needed. I believe that the failure to agree do the right thing will have dire consequences.

A judicial led public inquiry is the only hope for some further closure for the Lawrence’s and ironically represents the only hope for London and the country.