A retired police constable and a police staff member have been arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice after claims that evidence was hidden from the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry.
An Independent Police Complaints Commission statement issued yesterday said: ‘The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating concerns identified by the internal Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) review of the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
‘The MPS review recently discovered material from 1993, which allegedly had not been disclosed to either the Kent inquiry in 1997 or the Macpherson Inquiry.
‘The MPS Directorate of Professional Standards referred the concerns identified to the IPCC on 19 October 2009 and an independent investigation was launched, with a dedicated team of IPCC investigators working on the case.
‘The IPCC is investigating whether this material was considered by the original investigation and why it was allegedly not disclosed to either the Kent inquiry or the Macpherson Inquiry.
‘It will consider and report on whether or not any criminal or disciplinary offences may have been committed by any police officer, former police officer or member of police staff involved, bearing in mind the procedures in place in the Metropolitan Police in 1993.
‘The Lawrence family have been kept informed of developments since the material came to light and the IPCC will continue to keep them up to date as the investigation progresses.
‘The IPCC has also been liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to the case.
‘Two men were arrested yesterday on suspicion of perverting the course of justice by investigators from the IPCC.
‘A 53-year-old member of police staff and 62-year-old retired police constable have been interviewed by IPCC investigators at a central London police station and bailed pending further enquiries until 1 March 2010.
‘The IPCC is liaising closely with the ongoing MPS review into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and any information which comes to light as a result of this independent investigation which may help the murder review will be provided to the MPS without delay.’
Five men were arrested soon after Stephen Lawrence’s death: Gary Dobson, 32, Neil Acourt, 32, Luke Knight, 31, Jamie Acourt, 31, and David Norris, 31.
Dobson, Knight, and Neil Acourt were acquitted of murder after a private prosecution, brought by the Lawrence family, collapsed at the Old Bailey in 1996.
Norris and Jamie Acourt never stood trial as the case against them collapsed before reaching court.
The Macpherson Inquiry found: ‘The conclusions to be drawn from all the evidence in connection with the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s racist murder are clear.
‘There is no doubt but that there were fundamental errors.
‘The investigation was marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers.
‘A flawed MPS review failed to expose these inadequacies.’
On ‘Family Liaison and Victim Support’, Macpherson concluded: ‘From the first contact with police officers at the hospital, and thereafter, Mr and Mrs Lawrence were treated with insensitivity and lack of sympathy.’
On ‘Failure to arrest Clifford Norris’, the inquiry report said: ‘The failure of the team to do all that was possible to arrest Clifford Norris and to remove him from the scene is unexplained and incomprehensible, particularly in the light of the Stacey Benfield case and the belief that Clifford Norris’ influence was inhibiting young potential witnesses.’