Stephen Lawrence: IPCC to investigate Met commander over spying claims

Commander Richard Walton and two former officers are accused of involvement in plot to spy on family of murdered teenager
New Scotland Yard sign

The IPCC said it would ‘investigate allegations of discreditable conduct and breaches of honesty and integrity on the part of Commander Richard Walton’. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
An official watchdog is to investigate a Scotland Yard commander and two former senior officers over allegations that they were involved in a secret plot to spy on the family of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced on Monday that it had launched an investigation into the allegedly “discreditable conduct” of the three.
One of those under scrutiny is Commander Richard Walton, who was “temporarily” moved from his post as head of the Metropolitan police‘s counter-terrorism command in March after the espionage allegations were revealed.
The investigation by the IPCC will also examine alleged dishonesty by Walton, who is accused of giving “inconsistent accounts” to the recent review by Mark Ellison QC into the undercover infiltration of the Lawrence family’s campaign.
The review by Ellison alleged in March that Walton and the two other officers, Bob Lambert and Colin Black, were involved in a plot to gather “fascinating and valuable” intelligence from an undercover officer who was spying on the Lawrence family and their supporters.
At that time, in 1998, Walton was an acting detective inspector helping to draft the Met’s defence of its failure to properly investigate the teenager’s racist murder, according to Ellison’s review.
According to Ellison, the intelligence could be seen as giving the Met a “secret advantage” over the family during a public inquiry at which the Met was defending its conduct.
Sarah Green, the IPCC deputy chair, said: “Mark Ellison’s review highlighted a number of extremely serious matters which strike at the heart of public confidence in the police … In view of the seriousness of the matter and the significant public interest, I have determined the IPCC should conduct an independent investigation.”
The IPCC added that the alleged spying plot potentially undermined the public inquiry led by former judge Sir William Macpherson.
Lambert has been a controversial figure in the undercover spying scandal uncovered in recent years by the Guardian. While undercover in animal rights and environmental groups in the 1980s, he fathered a child with an activist and then abandoned both of them. He also had relationships with three other women while he was undercover.
He has admitted using a false identity in court and co-writing the “McLibel” leaflet that defamed McDonald’s, resulting in the longest civil trial in English legal history.
At the time of the Macpherson inquiry, Lambert had been promoted to running a network of undercover officers in political groups.
According to the Ellison review, Lambert arranged the meeting between Walton and one of the undercover officers in a garden in north London in August 1998. Black, the then Special Branch operations commander, was also aware of the meeting, according to Ellison.
In the wake of Ellison’s review, the home secretary, Theresa May, ordered a public inquiry into the infiltration of political groups by undercover officers.
Lambert told the BBC he will co-operate with the IPCC investigation while Walton was reported to say that he “welcomed the decision to investigate this matter independently and the IPCC will have my full support.”

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