The Black community appears to be in shock after it was revealed this week that the Metropolitan police were spying on the Lawrence family during the investigation into the murder of their son, Stephen. The allegation came via ex-officer turned whistleblower, Peter Francis who has confessed to being part of a secret police unit called the “Special Demonstrations Squad” (SDS).
The intention of SDS as it related to the Lawrence family, was to ‘find some dirt’ that could contribute to discrediting the family and wider community’s campaign for justice. While the shock in response to these allegations is somewhat understandable, closer inspection suggests that such clandestine activity on the part of law enforcement is far from an isolated occurrence.
Duwayne Brooks as the best friend and only eyewitness to the murder of Stephen Lawrence has been consistent not only in his campaign for justice but against the apparent corruption in the police force evident in the way they conducted the investigation. In its early stages, Duwayne and his family became the subject of suspicion based upon the inference that the murder had been the result of a gang violence dispute. This claim could never be substantiated and Brooks continued to call for an investigation into Police corruption. For his troubles, he was literally hounded by the Police for years to come.
In an LBC interview marking the 20th anniversary of the murder earlier this year, Brooks revealed that he was at one point “The most stopped and searched a man in Britain”. Charges such as ‘Possession of a dangerous weapon’ were brought against him and eventually dropped, however his involvement with the campaign seemingly led the SDS to continue seeking defamatory information.
In C4’s recently televised “Police’s Dirty Secrets” documentary, Peter Francis revealed: “I was also asked … could I find out anything else that could be used to maybe get the public to not have as much sympathy for the Stephen Lawrence Campaign… anything the police can use through the media to tarnish the campaign”. It appears that resources that could have been employed finding Stephens killers, were instead used in a completely unwarranted smear campaign. Neville Lawrence at least suspected that this was the case as he stated in response to these revelations; “I’ve always felt my family was under greater investigation than those guilty of killing my beloved Stephen”.Interestingly, however, the SDS’s primary concern does not appear to have been potential criminality, but Political leanings & affiliations. Peter Francis also revealed that discovering whether members of the family were ‘Political Activists’, was of great importance to his operatives. To this aim, family liaison officers, who were supposed to be updating Doreen & Neville Lawrence on the investigation, were instead gathering information on anyone who visited the house.
Peter Francis himself took on the alias Pete Black and joined “Youth against Racism in Europe” (a group known to be supporting the campaign), as an undercover operative. Considering the number of Black community groups and organisations that openly supported the Lawrence campaign, attended marches & held meetings, questions arise as to how far-reaching such intrigue went. What seems clear is that bringing murderers to justice had become a secondary objective to gauging the success of political groups who are perceived as a threat to the establishment.
Questions also arise as to why law enforcement would need to engage in such political infiltration, especially when the groups in question have no criminal ties. A question that deepens insignificance when it is considered that in the past, the Met has been exposed, not only for investigating groups but as agent provocateurs responsible for encouraging and proliferating criminal activity.
In the early 90’s ‘Operation Jackpot’ revealed that Stoke Newington Police was complicit in drug racketeering and prostitution in the London borough of Hackney. In 1993, a miscommunication between Scotland Yard and Nottingham police led to an investigation into the Nottingham warehouse robbery. Media intrigue eventually blew the lid on a Scotland Yard operation which included engineering the importation of known criminals from Jamaica. These criminals became informants on the Scotland Yard payroll and became the medium through which the Police were able to project the “Yardie” image through the media. Among such criminals were Delroy Denton & Eaton Greene, who were left to sell drugs, commit murder and even rape, while under Scotland Yard protection. Though arrests meant that the Yard was aware of their crimes, they were never convicted, suggesting that someone had a vested interest Denton & Greene remaining on the streets. These were not just “Yardies”; these were “Scotland Yardies”.
While politicians such as Jack Straw, infamous former Police Chief Paul Condon and others fall over themselves to announce their disgust and deny all knowledge of the smear campaign against the Lawrence’s, Neville Lawrence has called for a full public inquiry into the allegations. The government, however, is reluctant to pursue this course of action. Instead, Home Secretary Theresa May has extended the scope of the ongoing private investigation into police corruption conducted by Mark Ellison QC, to include the new revelations.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is said to be overseeing the investigative process; a fact that will not instill confidence in many campaigners on the issue of black deaths in Police Custody. The IPCC has a notorious reputation for being a hindrance to justice in such circumstances. At a mass community meeting held in Brixton following the death of Smiley Culture (David Emmanuel) in 2011, the families of Sean Rig (died in Custody 2008) and Christopher Alder (1998) publicly advised the Emmanuel family “The IPCC will do nothing for you”. At a similar meeting, Bev Hamilton, Mother of Wayne Hamilton (killed 2010) declared “The IPCC lied to us from start to finish”. These assertions find weight in the fact that no police officer has ever been held responsible for a black death in custody, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
It is now widely believed that throughout the various stages of the Lawrence case, the Metropolitan Police has withheld information, thereby perverting the course of justice. The announcement of a private investigation overseen by the IPCC leads many to believe that the public shall be in for more of the same. As allegations of MI5 intrigue fester in the wake of the Woolwich murder, the integrity of British law enforcement, Criminal Justice and the political apparatus which governs them, is under increased scrutiny.