Ellison Review — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:51 pm on 6th March 2014.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:51 pm, 6th March 2014

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, Mrs Theresa May, in the House of Commons earlier today. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the Mark Ellison review. In addition, I would like to update the House on work to improve standards of integrity in the police. In July

2012, I commissioned Mark Ellison QC to conduct a review examining allegations of corruption surrounding the initial, deeply flawed, investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. I also asked Mr Ellison to examine whether the Metropolitan Police had evidence of corruption that it did not disclose to the Macpherson inquiry.

In June last year, Peter Francis, a former special demonstration squad undercover officer, made a number of allegations about his previous role, including an allegation that he was deployed to gather evidence with which to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence. In response, I expanded the terms of reference of Mark Ellison’s review, encouraging him to go as far and wide as necessary to investigate the new claims.

The House will also be aware of Operation Herne, which was set up by the Metropolitan Police in October 2011 to investigate allegations of misconduct by undercover police officers in its former special demonstration squad—the SDS. Operation Herne is led by Derbyshire’s Chief Constable, Mick Creedon, and particular elements are overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Mick Creedon’s investigation has worked closely with Mark Ellison and will publish its own report on the allegations made by Peter Francis later today.

I will now set out the key findings of the Ellison review. The full report has been published and is available in the Vote Office. The totality of what the report shows is deeply troubling and I would like also to set out my response. I asked Mark Ellison to review and answer three key questions. First, was there evidence of corruption in the Metropolitan Police during the Lawrence investigation? Secondly, was that evidence withheld from the Macpherson inquiry? Thirdly, was inappropriate undercover activity directed at the Lawrence family?

On corruption, Ellison finds that specific allegations of corruption were made against one of the officers who had worked on the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder, Detective Sergeant John Davidson. The allegations were made by a police officer to his superiors, but were not brought to the attention of Macpherson. Ellison finds that this lack of disclosure was a “significant failure” by the Metropolitan Police.

Ellison has looked at the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s 2006 report into these allegations, as well as the Metropolitan Police’s own review in 2012. He finds that both investigations were inadequate.

Ellison also finds the Metropolitan Police Service’s record-keeping on its own investigations into police corruption a cause of real concern. Key evidence was the subject of mass shredding in 2003, and a hard drive containing some of the relevant data was discovered only in November 2013, after more than a year of the MPS searching for it. As a result of this, Ellison has serious concerns that further relevant material that would show corruption has not been revealed because it cannot be found or has been destroyed.

The other question that Mark Ellison set out to answer was whether inappropriate undercover activity had been directed at the Lawrence family. Ellison finds that SDS officers were deployed into activist groups that sought to influence the Lawrence family. On Peter Francis’s allegation that he was tasked with ‘smearing’ the Lawrence family, Ellison has found no surviving record that supports the claim. However, given the lack of written records from the era, and since such tasking would have been more likely to have been in oral rather than written form, Ellison says that he is ‘unable to reject’ the claims that Mr Francis has made.

Apart from the specific claims made by Mr Francis, Ellison reports on a separate and ‘wholly inappropriate’ use of an undercover officer during the Macpherson inquiry. Ellison finds that an officer, referred to as N81, had been deployed into one of the groups seeking to influence the Lawrence family campaign, while the Macpherson inquiry was ongoing. Ellison refers to N81 as,

‘an MPS spy in the Lawrence family camp during the course of judicial proceedings in which the family was the primary party in opposition to the MPS’.

As part of his deployment, N81 reported back to the SDS personal information about the Lawrence family, as well as what is described as ‘tactical intelligence’ around the inquiry. In August 1998, the SDS arranged for N81 to meet Richard Walton, then a detective inspector involved in writing the Met’s submissions to the Macpherson inquiry. SDS files record that they had a ‘fascinating and valuable exchange’.

Ellison finds that the opening of this channel of communication was ‘completely improper’. He finds no discernible public benefit to the meeting taking place, and says that had it been disclosed at the time of the inquiry,

‘it would have been seen as the MPS trying to achieve some secret advantage in the Inquiry from SDS undercover deployment’.

Ellison finds that if it had been made public in 1998, serious public disorder of the very kind so feared by the MPS might well have followed.

In addition, Ellison has reported on the SDS more widely. He comments on the extraordinary level of secrecy observed about any disclosure that might risk exposing an undercover officer. This meant that the SDS operated as if exempt from the proper rules of disclosure in criminal cases, and that there is a real potential for miscarriages of justices to have occurred. In particular, Ellison says there is an inevitable potential for SDS officers to have been viewed by those they infiltrated as encouraging, and participating in, criminal behaviour. He refers to officers in criminal trials failing to reveal their true identities, meaning that crucial information that should have been disclosed was not given to the defence and the court. He also finds that undercover officers sometimes failed to correct evidence given in court which they knew was wrong. This means that there is a chance that people could have been convicted for offences when they should not have been. We must therefore establish if there have been miscarriages of justice.

The Ellison review has also investigated the way in which Duwayne Brooks was treated by the Metropolitan Police. The House will recall that Mr Brooks was a close friend of Stephen Lawrence and was with him when he was murdered. Mark Ellison finds that the MPS’s handling of a 1993 prosecution against Mr Brooks was “unsatisfactory”, but he finds no evidence that this was a deliberate attempt to smear him. Ellison also finds evidence of inappropriate reporting on Mr Brooks from an SDS officer. This included intelligence on Mr Brooks’s relationship with the Lawrence family and on the way in which Mr Brooks intended to approach various legal proceedings, including civil action against the Met. Ellison says that this line of reporting, “should have been terminated”, but instead it continued from 1999 to 2001. Finally, Mark Ellison finds that the covert recording of Mr Brooks and his solicitor in a meeting with the MPS in May 2000, while not unlawful, was neither necessary nor justified.

The findings I have outlined today are profoundly shocking and will be of grave concern to everyone in the House and beyond. I would now like to set out what I believe needs to happen in response. The Ellison review makes a number of findings in relation to the issue of corruption. Ellison finds that there remain some outstanding lines of inquiry which could be investigated both in relation to alleged corruption by a specific officer and possibly other officers. This is of the utmost seriousness. I have asked the Director-General of the National Crime Agency to consider quickly how best an investigation can be taken forward into this aspect of Mr Ellison’s findings and report back to me.

Ellison also refers to possible links between an allegedly corrupt officer involved in the Stephen Lawrence case, Detective Sergeant Davidson, and the investigation into the murder of Daniel Morgan. Ellison finds that the Daniel Morgan panel may therefore uncover material relevant to the question of corruption, and so it is key that the Daniel Morgan panel continues its important work.

Operation Herne has previously found that the Home Office was instrumental in the establishment of the SDS in 1968 in the aftermath of violence at the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Grosvenor Square, and it has also previously found that the Home Office initially provided direct funding for the SDS. The Home Office was the police authority for the Metropolitan Police at that time, so the interests of transparency require that we all understand what role the department played. My Permanent Secretary has therefore commissioned a forensic external review in order to establish the full extent of the Home Office’s knowledge of the SDS.

In identifying the possibility that SDS secrecy may have caused miscarriages of justice, Mark Ellison recommends a further review to identify the specific cases affected. I have accepted that recommendation. Mark Ellison will lead the work, working with the CPS and reporting to the Attorney-General. That will mean that proper consideration can be given to those cases and to any implications that may arise. In doing that work, Mark Ellison and the CPS will be provided with whatever access they judge necessary to the relevant documentary evidence. Operation Herne is a criminal investigation, and it is only through a criminal investigation that criminal or misconduct charges can be brought. So it is vital that we allow Operation Herne to bring its current criminal investigations to a proper conclusion, which Chief Constable Creedon informs me should take about 12 months.

There are people inside and outside our country who seek to commit serious crimes and harm our communities, our way of life and our nation, and who wish to harm our children. It is entirely right—indeed it is a responsibility of Governments—to ensure that the police and other agencies have effective powers to tackle those threats and to ensure that robust legal frameworks exist for the use of sometimes intrusive tactics. Undercover officers, sometimes working in difficult and dangerous conditions, have helped bring criminals to justice. They have stopped bad things happening to our country.

None the less, the Ellison review reveals very real and substantial failings. The picture that emerges about the SDS from this report, and from other material in the public domain, is of significant failings of judgment, intrusive supervision and failings of leadership over a sustained period. Mark Ellison has performed a commendable public duty in revealing these issues. His report lays bare issues of great seriousness, in relation not only to Peter Francis but to the SDS more widely.

When I asked Mark Ellison to consider the SDS within the scope of his review, I asked him to tell me in his report whether he felt that a public inquiry was needed to get to the full truth. Although Ellison does not go as far as recommending a public inquiry, he is clear that in respect of the SDS in general, and the Peter Francis allegations in particular, a public inquiry might be better placed to make definitive findings.

I do not say this lightly, but the greatest possible scrutiny is now needed into what has taken place. Given the gravity of what has now been uncovered, I have decided that a public inquiry, led by a judge, is necessary to investigate undercover policing and the operation of the SDS. Only a public inquiry will be able to get to the full truth behind the matters of huge concern contained in Mark Ellison’s report.

The House will understand that an inquiry cannot be set up immediately. It must wait for the conclusion of the criminal investigation and Ellison’s further work to identify possible miscarriages of justice. It is right and proper that those legal processes are allowed to conclude first. Ellison himself identifies his further review as a priority before any public inquiry could take place. That further work will also inform the inquiry’s precise terms of reference.

As I have said, the matters that I have announced today are deeply concerning. More broadly, it is imperative that public trust and confidence in the police is maintained. I do not believe corruption and misconduct to be endemic in the police, and it is clear that the majority of police men and women conduct themselves honestly and with integrity.

In February last year I announced to the House specific measures to address corruption and misconduct, ensure greater transparency, provide clearer rules on conduct, and improve standards of professional behaviour. That work is on track. The College of Policing, which has a clear remit for enhancing police integrity, is delivering a package of measures that includes a new code of ethics. The code sets out clearly the high standards of behaviour expected from police officers. In addition, the Independent Police Complaints

Commission is being expanded and emboldened so that in future it will have responsibility for dealing with all serious and sensitive cases involving the police. I can tell the House that I am reflecting on whether further proposals are needed.

I also want to ensure that those who want to report corruption and misconduct are encouraged to do so. I therefore want to strengthen protections for whistleblowers in the police, and I will bring proposals to the House in due course. We must also ensure that police forces have all the capability they need to pursue corruption, so today I have asked the Chief Inspector of Constabulary to look specifically at the anti-corruption capability of forces, including professional standards departments.

Arrangements for undercover officer deployments are very different today from those in the early 1990s. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, all deployments must be authorised as both necessary and proportionate to the issue being investigated. This Government have introduced further safeguards. The independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners is now notified of all deployments and must approve those that last longer than 12 months. We have also increased the rank of the authorising officer. All deployments must be authorised by an assistant chief constable and those lasting longer than 12 months by a chief constable.

There also needs to be a change in culture. We need to continue the work we have already done to reform the police. From this autumn, the police will for the first time have the opportunity to bring in talented and experienced leaders from other walks of life to senior ranks. The College of Policing will provide those individuals with world-class training. Those coming in will bring a fresh perspective and approach, and will open up policing culture. I believe it is one of the most important reforms in shaping the police of the future. I have committed to funding a cadre of new direct-entrant superintendents from this autumn until spring 2018. I challenge all those forces that have not yet signed up to take the opportunity do so. It is vital that the public know that policing is not a closed shop.

We are changing the culture of the police through direct entry, the code of ethics, greater transparency and professionalisation. We are transforming the investigation of cases involving the police through reform of the IPCC. But I would like to do more. The current law on police corruption relies on the outdated common-law offence of misconduct in public office. It is untenable to be relying on such a legal basis to deal with serious issues of corruption in modern policing. So I will table amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to introduce a new offence of police corruption, supplementing the existing offence of misconduct in public office and focusing clearly on those who hold police powers.

In policing, as in other areas, the problems of the past have a danger of infecting the present and can lay traps for the future. Policing stands damaged today. Trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police, and policing more generally, is vital. A public inquiry and the other work I have set out are part of the process of repairing the damage. Stephen Lawrence was murdered more than 20 years ago and it is deplorable that his family have had to wait so many years for the truth to emerge. Indeed, it is still emerging. Understandably, many of us thought that the Macpherson inquiry had answered all the questions surrounding the investigation into Stephen’s death but the findings I have set out today are profoundly disturbing. For the sake of Doreen Lawrence, Neville Lawrence, their family and the British public, we must act now to redress these wrongs. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.