HC Deb 15 December 1997 vol 303 cc17-8W
Mr. Watts

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish the report by the Police Complaints Authority on their investigation of the complaints against the Metropolitan Police concerning the murder of Stephen Lawrence. [21031]

Mr. Straw

I am today laying before Parliament the report submitted to me by the Police Complaints Authority. This has been made under section 97(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which allows the Authority to make a report to the Secretary of State on any matters coming to its notice to which it considers that his attention should be drawn by reason of their gravity or other exceptional circumstances.

The report sets out the main findings resulting from an investigation carried out by officers from Kent Constabulary, under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority, into the way in which the Metropolitan Police Service handled the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The report concludes that the Metropolitan Police Service has committed substantial resources over several years to the investigation of this appalling crime, and that there is no doubt that a considerable amount of hard work has been undertaken. The report also concludes that the police operation undertaken immediately after the assault was well organised and effective and that there was no evidence of racist conduct by police officers. The report concludes, however, that there were significant weaknesses, omissions and lost opportunities during the murder investigation. Those errors were not identified by the internal review carried out by the Metropolitan Police. As a result, subsequent attempts to solve the crime have been hampered.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has told me that he broadly accepts the findings of this initial report and now awaits the full report from the Kent investigation. He has told me that the Metropolitan Police have moved forward significantly in the investigation of major crime since 1993 but will address all of the shortcomings identified in the supervision and management of this investigation. They will also consider carefully the lessons to be learned.

This report and its conclusion will now be considered by the Inquiry which I have established under the Chairmanship of Sir William Macpherson of Cluny to inquire into the matters arising from the death of Stephen Lawrence in order particularly to identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes. The inquiry intends to begin public hearings in February.

The Police Complaints Authority Report also identifies several issues which are relevant to the handling of serious crimes by the police generally. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crime Committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers are examining national standards in the investigation of major crime with a view to producing a model for the handling of major inquiries. During 1998, the Inspectorate will also be conducting a thematic inspection of major crime investigation across the Police Service.

The Police Complaints Authority Report also draws attention to the shortcomings in first aid skills possessed by the officers who were first to arrive at the scene of the murder. All chief constables have already been recommended to deal with this issue within their forces, by a report of a thematic inspection on officer safety by Her Majesty's Inspectorate which was published in October.