The Labour leadership on Croydon Council “should be ashamed”, according to a leading black activist, over their decision to award one of the borough’s highest civic honours to a former senior Metropolitan Police officer who was heavily criticised over his conduct in the investigation into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.
For 20 years until he stood down last May, David Osland was a Conservative councillor for the Croydon ward of Coulsdon West.
But in April 1993, at the time of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence’s brutal murder in Eltham, Osland was the third-highest ranking officer at Scotland Yard. As the deputy assistant commissioner for south-east London, he was directly responsible for the original investigation, which failed to get a conviction.
It was 2012 before the police finally managed to obtain a conviction for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, although the Daily Mail newspaper had published a front page identifying five prime suspects in 1997.
Dissatisfaction with senior Met officers’ handling of the investigation eventually led to a high-profile public inquiry chaired by Sir William McPherson in 1999. The inquiry’s findings were extremely critical and infamously accused the Metropolitan Police of being “institutionally racist”.
Osland gave evidence to the inquiry over two days, which saw him booed from the public gallery. The resulting report singled him out for particular responsibility for allowing the breakdown in the police’s relationship with Stephen Lawrence’s family and their lawyer.
“Mr Osland should not be surprised that some who heard his evidence might regard this as another example of institutional racism at work,” the report said.
After his retirement from the force in 1994, Osland gave an interview in which he rejected many of the Lawrence family’s complaints about the police investigation. He even encouraged his former colleagues to consider taking legal action against the Lawrence family, the very people who had been so ill-served by the officers under his command.
“It is regrettable that Mr Osland’s later pronouncements and attitude have understandably exacerbated the feelings of Mr and Mrs Lawrence towards the police which are expressed so pungently and so repeatedly by them and those who surround them,” McPherson’s final report stated.
Osland has refused to apologise to the Lawrence family for his ill-considered remarks.
This year, Osland stood down as a councillor before May’s local elections. He is now the chairman of the Conservatives in Croydon South.
On Monday at a special meeting of the council, Osland, together with four other former Tory councillors, is to be made an alderman of the borough, according to the formal council agenda, “in deserved recognition of long and valued public service”.
The decision to bestow this civic honour on Osland was taken at a secret council meeting last month which was due to be chaired by the new leader of the council, Tony Newman, and which had a majority of Labour councillors.
In 2012, following the conviction of two men for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Newman called on Osland to do the decent thing and apologise to the Lawrence family. Now in charge, Newman is to preside over Croydon Council honouring Osland.
“I find it entirely inappropriate that one of London’s most diverse boroughs should be honouring David Osland in this way,” Lee Jasper, the senior advisor on equalities to Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London, told Inside Croydon today.
Jasper, who stood as the candidate for George Galloway’s Respect party in the Croydon North parliamentary by-election two years ago, said, “I am sure that like me, many of Croydon’s black and minority ethnic residents will find it distasteful that someone who conducted themselves as Osland did over the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation should receive any form of civic recognition.
“The local Labour party leadership in Croydon should be ashamed of themselves for honouring Osland.”
The creation of “Alderman Osland” will also come just a week after Andy Tarrant, the Met’s new Borough Commander for Croydon, addressed a council cabinet meeting and spoke at length about how important it was for the public to “have confidence in policing”, and how this will “underpin” making police recruitment in the borough more representative.
Inside Croydon contacted Newman to ask how he can justify, as the leader of a Labour-run council in such an ethnically diverse borough, giving such an honour to David Osland. Newman said, “The aldermanship is currently given to those who have served 16 years or more on the council.
“Whilst it clearly recognises the length of service, it does not necessarily recognise the quality of the contribution the recipient has, or has not made, to public life.” That statement is contradicted by the official council citation which mentions “valued public service”.
An aldermanship is among the highest civic honours in Croydon, although it no longer carries any special authority or powers. As well as Osland, recipients at Monday’s special meeting will be Avril Slipper (a former councillor for Ashburton), Graham Bass (Purley), Janet Marshall (Shirley) and Eddy Arram, who was so loathed for the way he behaved when he was Mayor of Croydon that he was even deselected by the local Tories.
While it does not carry any voting rights at council meetings, being an alderman or alderwoman does allow someone to have a Town Hall car park pass, and to use the council toilets, “… and that can be a considerable benefit to some of our more elderly former councillors when on a shopping trip into Croydon,” a Katharine Street source suggested.
- The Stephen Lawrence murder case and Croydon’s connection
- Corruption inquiry into Lawrence case could call on Osland
- Councillor’s unanswered questions over Stephen Lawrence
- Lawrence inquiry officer to chair council’s ethics committee
Coming to Croydon
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- Croydon Fun Palace, Whitgift Centre, Oct 4-5
- East Croydon community meeting, Oct 7
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- David Lean Cinema: Boyhood, Oct 9
- David Lean Cinema: Grand Central, Oct 14
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- David Lean Cinema: Finding Vivian Maier, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- David Lean Cinema: Mood Indigo, Oct 23
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, 2.30pm, Oct 25
- David Lean Cinema: Ilo Ilo, Oct 28
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- David Lean Cinema: Belle, Oct 30
- St Giles School opening morning, Nov 5
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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