Home secretary Theresa May speaking to MPs
Home secretary Theresa May speaking to MPs

The home secretary has said authorities must be "ruthless in purging" police wrongdoings following claims the Met wanted to smear the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Theresa May confirmed she has asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to supervise the allegations against the Metropolitan Police by former undercover officer Peter Francis.

Francis told the Guardian that the police wanted him to find "dirt" on the family of Lawrence, shortly after he was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.

Following the claims, May said Operation Herne - originally set up by Met police and overseen by Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon - will now investigate the allegations.

May told the Commons she wished to show her support for the "unspeakable tragedy" the Lawrence family suffered in the wake of their son's murder.

She said: "Their pain was compounded by the many years in which justice was not done and these allegations still coming 20 years after Stephen's murder only add to their suffering".

After confirming the allegations will be looked at by the IPCC, May added: "I am determined that we shall have zero tolerance of police corruption and wrongdoing".

Neville lawrence, the father of the mudered teenager, said that he finds the announcement "completely unsatisfactory".

He added: "I am convinced that nothing short of a judge-led public inquiry will suffice and I have no confidence that the measures announced today will get to the bottom of this matter".

The allegations surround Francis's claims he was asked to target people launching a campaign against the Scotland Yard, who were angry at their failure to bring Lawrence's murderers to justice. He also claims he was asked to target Duwayne Brooks, one of Lawrence's friends who witnessed the murder.

Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.
Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in 1993

Posing as an anti-racism activist in the mid-1990s, Francis claimed he was under "huge and constant pressure" to find information on the family, which would ultimately weaken the campaign against the police.

Prime Minister David Cameron previously described the allegations as "dreadful" and said it is important that the truth is revealed "as rapidly as possible".

He added: "One can only think of the Lawrence family who suffered so much from the loss of their son and now suffer again, hearing that potentially the police that were meant to be helping them were actually undermining them".

Lord Condon, the Met police commissioner at the time of Lawrence's murder, said he never authorised any smear campaign.

He said: "I can say categorically that at no time during my time as commissioner did I authorise or condone or was aware of the sort of smear operation that has been described in the Guardian.

"I don't know if it's true or not, but I can certainly say that from a senior level, as far as I'm concerned, there was no such operation".

It's a disgrace

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said he has met with the Met Police mommissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to discuss the allegations.

Johnson added: "I cannot think of anything more despicable than the police attempting to smear Stephen Lawrence's family.

"If there was a campaign to discredit those seeking justice, we need to know what the orders were and who gave them. We need to know whether there was any criminal activity, and we shouldn't rule out the possibility of criminal proceedings.

"It is critical that the investigation led by the Chief Constable of Derbyshire and the IPCC gets to the bottom of these allegations as quickly as possible".

Howe said he is "shocked" by the claims, adding: "If these allegations are true, it's a disgrace, and the Metropolitan Police Service will apologise".

Scotland Yard has so far refused to confirm or deny the claims by Francis.

The force added: "The Met must balance the genuine public interest in these matters with its duty to protect officers and former officers who have been deployed undercover, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

"We are therefore not prepared to confirm or deny the identity of individuals alleged in the media to have been working undercover, nor confirm nor deny the deployment of individuals on specific operations.

"At some point it will fall upon this generation of police leaders to account for the activities of our predecessors, but for the moment we must focus on getting to the truth."