Monday, 24 June 2013

Met Police Smear Campaign Against Stephen Lawrence Family: I know I was there. (By Lee Jasper)

The recent revelation by the Guardian newspaper that in 1993, the family of Stephen Lawrence and those campaign groups that supported them were spied upon by police, in an effort to smear and undermine the campaign for justice will no doubt surprise some, not however me.
Former Met undercover police officer Peter Francis says he and others were employed to ‘monitor and smear’ the Lawrence’s and their supporters, including he says a special focus on all of the ‘black justice campaigns’

I have started an e-petition calling for the PM to recall the McPherson Inquiry team to examine these issues. You can sign here
As part of the National Black Caucus I had the honour of working with others in those dark days in the immediate aftermath of Stephens’s tragic and sickening murder. I helped organize demonstrations, public meetings and helped orchestrate the political strategy to secure a public inquiry.

The Commissioner back then was on Paul Condon who I knew when he was an inspector. In February 1987 he secured promotion as Deputy Assistant Commissioner in charge of West London.

It was here that our paths crossed in the late 1980's., I was Chair of Mangrove Community Association All Saints Road Notting Hill. Condon was the kind of copper that “Life on Mars” probably based on.

He engaged and was actively involved in leading his officers in a relentless campaign that sought to smear us in the press and falsely criminalize the local black community.

We at the Mangrove experienced this on a daily basis that culminated in the false arrest and imprisonment of the leader of the Mangrove and legendary community father.

The Met and Condon wanted to close down the Mangrove a bastion of black power activists that constantly challenged police corruption, racism and brutality. All thirteen of those arrested in the ‘drugs raid’ were acquitted in…wait for this… thirteen separate consecutive trials, including Frank Crichlow.

Condon himself gave evidence at Franks trail in a desperate effort to have an innocent man jailed. He failed and Frank subsequently received what was at its time the largest civil award settlement on British judicial history.

Under his watch reigned “The Black Watch “ unit operating out of Notting Hill police station a group of police officers that targeted Black youths and planted them with drugs. He was also responsible for swamp policing of the 1987 and 1988 Notting Hill Carnivals that saw brutal policing and disturbances.

So it comes as no surprise that Condon as Commissioner would have engaged in such a despicable campaign to ensure that he Lawrence family and their supporters like me should be smeared and arrested on real or trumped up charges if possible. That was Paul Condon’s modus operandi, his signature move. This was the standard model of policing protest borrowed straight out of the 1960’s US COINTELPRO programme. The Met at the time knew of my very public and high profile involvement in the Lawrence campaign and no doubt hoped that he could finish of the job he failed to complete at the Mangrove.

These new revelations should now be the basis of a new full inquiry and all those surviving or retired officers engaged in the covert Metropolitan Police surveillance of the Lawrence’s and supporters should be thoroughly investigated and where found to have crossed the line face disciplinary or criminal charges. 

The most damming fact is all this information was denied to the McPherson public inquiry and fact quite staggering in its implications. The question to be asked and answered immediately is which police officers were involved in the original surveillance operation and who took the Mets decision not to present this critical information to the inquiry? It is beyond belief that the then Home secretary of the time Jack Straw did not even know about this. The decision to engage in this disgraceful campaign must have been taken at the highest level of the Met Police.

It is not good enough for the Met to say (as they have) that this will now form part of an ongoing general investigation into undercover policing. Neither can Prime Minister David Cameron's call today for a new 'police investigation' misunderstands the serious nature of problem. 

Now I here that 
Mark Ellison QC is already looking into allegations of police corruption in the initial investigation of the murder and that he will look into this matter. Nobody knows who is he working for and what is his remit and who is he reporting to? This travesty of a response is just more of the same old same old, placate the public so as to make them believe we are doing something. Nobody trust either the Met Police, Boris Johnson or the Independent Police Complaints Commission on this issue.

This is much more serious than that and ought to result in the immediate recall of McPherson Public Inquiry team so that the full detail of what happened and who was involved can be forensically explored.

The Met’s reputation with London’s Black communities is the worst it’s been in my 30 years experience and getting worse every day.  Deaths in police custody, harvesting black peoples DNA, stop and search, the use of the dreaded joint enterprise law, 2011 civil disturbances alongside routine everyday police racism has created a toxic atmosphere in some areas.

Not all of this is entirely the result of police racism. The catalyst for these worsening relationships is result of the malign influence of Boris Johnson and London Tories who from day one of his election actively campaigned to rid the service of the tag of ‘institutional racism’.

To ensure that Boris got his way he ensured the employment of a series of nodding dog Commissioners most of whom did not have the character or strength of will of say a Sir John Steven who was notorious for not entertaining political interference of any kind. The combination of a culture of Tory ideological prejudice against the McPherson recommendations and weak Commissioners has led to this pretty pass.

The Lawrence’s search for justice has always at its root represented a wider public campaign for police accountability. Now that we know the depth of the conspiracy those guilty of crimes and misdemeanors must now face justice or an already toxic relationship between black communities and the Met will become radioactive.