That Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is considering a public inquiry into allegations that police corruption undermined the hunt for the killers of Stephen Lawrence may be of interest for Croydon councillor David Osland.
Osland, a Conservative councillor for Coulsdon West ward, is the former senior police officer who was in charge of elements of the investigation into the racist murder of the teenager in Eltham, 19 years ago this week.
Osland may have taken a keener-than-usual interest in yesterday’s debate in parliament, where MPs argued that an internal police investigation into the claims was inadequate. It seems likely that any public inquiry will call Osland to give evidence.
Among those calling for urgent action was Osland’s former Croydon Council colleague, Gavin Barwell, now the MP for Croydon Central.
Barwell said in the House of Commons, “Given how long it took to bring Stephen’s killers to justice, is it not important that we get swift answers to these latest allegations in a way that instills public confidence, not just for the sake of Stephen’s family, but because of the urgent need to build confidence in our police among black and minority ethnic communities and because a single allegation of corruption or racism against one officer undoes all the good work that so many officers do on our streets?”
Barwell has first-hand and recent experience of racism on our streets, having presided over an ugly incident on London Road last Saturday, when youths and at least one supervisor in a work gang organised by the MP were accused of making hostile, racist comments against local residents, with one man being subjected to threats of violence by the youths. Barwell has since issued a public apology.
Yesterday, making an emergency Commons statement, the Home Office minister James Brokenshire said that his boss, May, regarded the new corruption allegations with “absolute seriousness”.
He disclosed that May had invited Doreen Lawrence to the Home Office to discuss her worries and that she would also urge the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to speed up its investigation.
Hogan-Howe has signalled a sea-change in police attitudes towards racists on the force by saying “a racist officer is an incompetent officer”.
The Lawrence family wrote to May last month asking for a new public inquiry after an investigation by The Independent revealed previously unseen intelligence reports into a lead detective on the inquiry team, John Davidson, detailing extensive allegations of corruption against him.
The reports found Mr Davidson was a “major player” in a ring of bent detectives “operating as a professional organised crime syndicate”. He has denied the allegations and has now retired and runs a bar in Spain.
In 2007, the Independent Police Complaints Commission found no evidence of corruption involving DS Davidson.
But Richard Stone, one of the panel members on the McPherson Inquiry held in 1999 into the Lawrence case this week wrote that, “Corruption and collusion were always likely to be factors in the failures of the police. And indeed, during our inquiry the smell of it hung around a number of aspects of the case.”
Stone said that despite considerable efforts to discover evidence of corruption, none was found. “Tom Cook, our senior police officer on the panel explained corrupt officers do not leave a paper trail,” Stone wrote.
The McPherson Report’s findings 13 years ago were extremely critical of the Met’s handling of the Lawrence murder inquiry and infamously accused the Metropolitan Police of being “institutionally racist”.
One of the witnesses at the inquiry was David Osland, who in 1993 had been a Deputy Assistant Commissioner for south-east London, including Eltham, at the time of the murder. Osland’s two days of evidence to the McPherson Inquiry saw him given an entire chapter in the final report.
The report was highly critical of Osland for allowing the breakdown in the police’s relationship with Stephen Lawrence’s family and lawyer, stating: “Mr Osland should not be surprised that some who heard his evidence might regard this as another example of institutional racism at work”.
And after his retirement from the force in 1994, Osland gave a now infamous interview with the Croydon Advertiser in which he rejected many of the Lawrence family’s complaints about the police investigation.
“It is regrettable that Mr Osland’s later pronouncements and attitude have understandably exacerbated the feelings of Mr & Mrs Lawrence towards the police which are expressed so pungently and so repeatedly by them and those who surround them,” the final report stated.
- IPCC should investigate Met’s handling of Stephen Lawrence case, says Cooper (guardian.co.uk)
- Stephen Lawrence’s mother demands new public inquiry (telegraph.co.uk)
- MP Barwell says he got it wrong over group’s racist incident (insidecroydon.com)