INSTITUTIONAL corruption might have been found within the Metropolitan Police if an inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s death had received all the evidence, Jack Straw has said.
The Blackburn MP and former Home Secretary said he initially believed the Met Police’s reluctance for the inquiry he announced in 1997 was a ‘bureaucratic unwillingness’ to accept scrutiny.
But Mr Straw told MPs it was now clear there was probably dishonesty at the highest level of the force, which led it to refuse to offer evidence, despite being required to do so.
Sir William Macpherson’s 1999 report, which examined the police investigation into the death of Mr Lawrence, was critical of the ‘institutional racism’ within the Met Police and policing generally.
Mr Lawrence, 18, was killed in a racist attack in April 1993.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Straw said he was assured the Special Demonstration Squad’s (SDS) activities on subversives had stopped when he was Home Secretary, adding he knew nothing of their work during his period as Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001.
But he said he hoped the new public inquiry would get to the bottom of the issue.
Mr Straw praised current Home Secretary Theresa May’s ‘resolute determination’ in pursuing Mr Lawrence’s case, telling her: “I have to say to you, in the 35 years I’ve been in this House, this is one of the most shocking and serious statements I’ve heard by any minister from any party.”
He added: “Given what you have now said, had that evidence been offered I think it is at least possible that Sir William Macpherson and his colleagues would have not only concluded as they did that there had been institutional racism, but they may have concluded that there had been institutional corruption as well.”
Mr Straw added he was pleased the permanent secretary would examine what happened under the previous government, adding he would cooperate fully.