Publications on the internet
UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 557-i
house of commons
taken before the
Home Affairs Committee
Undercover policing: follow-up
Wednesday 10 July 2013
Doreen Lawrence OBE
Mark Ellison QC
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 93
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.
Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Wednesday 10 July 2013
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Doreen Lawrence OBE gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Could I call the Committee to order? This is the Committee’s inquiry into policing in London, and our witness today is Doreen Lawrence. Yesterday we took evidence from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Mayor for London. Mrs Lawrence, thank you very much for coming in to give evidence to the Committee again. I will begin by passing on our best wishes to the Stephen Lawrence Trust from the whole of the Committee. I know that this year has been a very painful year for you, because you have acknowledged that it has been 20 years since the death of Stephen, and some of us were fortunate enough to be at the service that you held at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Thank you for coming.
The reason why we have asked you to come in today is to review the ongoing inquiry that was set up by the Home Secretary last year under Mark Ellison QC-we will be hearing from him later, after you have given evidence-and, in particular, the recent developments that have occurred. The Committee was very concerned, as were the public, the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister and others, by the revelations that, during the campaign that you and your husband led, there were allegations that undercover agents were in some way involved in your household, possibly even spying on you. What were your thoughts when you first heard about this?
Doreen Lawrence: I was very shocked. That is the last thing I expected. Over the years there have been so many revelations coming out since Stephen’s murder. I think one of the things I said was, "I think this is just toxic", because I just cannot believe that the police were doing that, and we had no idea. It has taken 20 years for us to hear about this.
Q2 Chair: Do you feel now, in hindsight, that this kind of activity ought to have been investigated and revealed earlier-that you had absolutely no idea at the time that people might be entering your household who were, in effect, involved in the kinds of activities that we have heard?
Doreen Lawrence: We had no idea whatsoever. The only time that we were questioning certain actions of the police was when the liaison officers were coming to our home. When they came, my understanding of what their role should have been was to give us information on how the investigation was being carried out, but they spent most of the time when they attended our home asking about what individuals were in our home, what their names were and what their purpose was. That is the bit that we did not understand. In hindsight, looking back and since the revelation about undercover police, now I know why they were questioning our family and our friends to the extent of asking them for their contact details.
Q3 Chair: Peter Francis said he was responsible and was involved in this. You cannot identify him? You cannot remember who he was and what he was doing there?
Doreen Lawrence: No. I do not think he ever came to our house. I do not remember ever seeing him before, no.
Q4 Chair: Yesterday we heard from the Commissioner that when you met him-and you have met both the Commissioner and the Home Secretary very recently-you told him that the revelations made you feel that you were taking one step forward and two steps back. Do you have confidence in the police’s ability to investigate these very serious allegations?
Doreen Lawrence: No, I have no confidence whatsoever. I have no confidence. I think over the years I was beginning to develop a level of trust, because the investigation and then the court case that we had did have the conviction of two of the suspects, so I was beginning to develop some confidence, but I just don’t know what to believe any more.
Q5 Chair: You are telling this Committee that you do not think the Metropolitan Police can be involved in this investigation?
Doreen Lawrence: Definitely not. You cannot have police officers investigating each other, because over the years I think it is proven that is not the right way to do things. If it was, during the Barker review we would have had a lot of information that only came out at the inquiry.
Q6 Chair: You have made it clear that in your view, following these revelations, you think that there is a strong case for a public inquiry over and above what is being done at the moment by Mr Ellison. Is that your view today? Do you think that there ought to be a full public inquiry into these revelations and allegations?
Doreen Lawrence: Definitely so, because I think over the years all we have been given is just a drip, drip of information. After 20 years, I think deserve to have the whole truth, and not have it so that in another five years’ time we might find something out. I think having a public inquiry, led by a judge who has the power to invite people to answer questions, is going to be the way forward, and not just reviews. I think reviews are sometimes only paper-based.
Q7 Chair: Did you say this to both the Commissioner and the Home Secretary? Do they know your views?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes, they do.
Q8 Chair: What was their response?
Doreen Lawrence: The Home Secretary talked about Mark Ellison QC’s review that is going on, and also the review with the Derbyshire chief constable that is taking place.
Chair: Mick Creedon.
Doreen Lawrence: What she was saying is that we should probably give them a chance to carry out what they are doing and see what comes out of it, but I still do not have confidence in that.
Q9 Chair: On the Ellison review, how many times have you seen Mr Ellison in the last year since the inquiry was set up?
Doreen Lawrence: We met Mr Ellison I think at the start, when he was tasked to carry out the review.
Chair: That is last year.
Doreen Lawrence: Yes, Imran and I met him then. I think we should have had another meeting, but I got the time wrong, so we had a telephone conference, and then my next meeting I had with him about two Fridays ago.
Chair: You met him once, and again two Fridays ago?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes.
Q10 Chair: Are you being updated as to what has been happening?
Doreen Lawrence: I know that Imran sometimes has conversations with him, but-
Chair: This is Imran Khan, your solicitor?
Doreen Lawrence: Imran Khan, my solicitor. I had an update when we had the telephone conference, and then when we met a couple of Fridays ago.
Chair: Thank you.
Q11 Michael Ellis: Mrs Lawrence, could I just take you back a step? We heard from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, yesterday, and I think I am right in saying that he characterised the meeting that he had with you and your position by saying that your confidence had taken at least two steps backwards. Do you think it is more than that? You seem to have said to the Chairman that you have no confidence at all. It is not a question of having taken a couple of steps back; it is that you have lost all confidence, if you ever had any. Is that fair?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes, because I was beginning to develop the trust, but at the moment I don’t feel that I have that level of trust.
Q12 Michael Ellis: I want to go back to your point about the liaison officers, because this is a particular concern. The police liaison officers 20 years ago were assigned to you and your family in order to be a bridge between a bereaved family and the police. Are you saying it is your assessment that those officers were, in effect, spying on you by persuading you that they were seeking to be friends when in fact they were seeking information about who was coming in and out of your house?
Doreen Lawrence: It felt like that, because-
Michael Ellis: Felt like that at the time?
Doreen Lawrence: At the time it felt like that, because whenever we asked questions about the investigation, we were never given any answers. We would always pass on information we received to the officers when they came, or even Mr Imran Khan would, through the telephone. Whatever the information, we were always passing it on to the police, but they never gave us any information as to how the investigation was going.
Q13 Michael Ellis: Had you built up what you thought were good relations with those liaison officers at the time?
Doreen Lawrence: I don’t think we ever had that, because they did not come across in a way that meant we could have a level of trust or build a relationship with them at that time.
Q14 Michael Ellis: Did the family have any suspicions that the police had sought to gather intelligence on witnesses giving evidence to the Macpherson inquiry?
Doreen Lawrence: I was not aware of that.
Michael Ellis: You were not?
Doreen Lawrence: No.
Michael Ellis: There were no suspicions or anything of that sort at that point?
Doreen Lawrence: No. As I say, we were uncomfortable with the liaison officers because we did not understand why they were questioning, and asking who the people were in our home. That was the only thing that we were questioning. We had no idea of anything else.
Q15 Chair: With hindsight, you have a very large number of people who would go into your home and offer you support. Has anyone said to you, "Looking back, I was really suspicious. I thought that that officer or that liaison officer was taking information away, rather than providing you with information"? Have people said that to you since?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes, yes. I have heard that since the revelation came out.
Q16 Chris Ruane: Do you believe that if the police had concentrated their efforts and their time on gleaning information from the killers instead of sitting in your front room, spying on your bereaved family, more progress would have been made in this case to date?
Doreen Lawrence: Definitely, because right after Stephen was murdered all the information coming through was saying that they knew who the individuals were, where they lived-they gave names. All this information was passed on to the police, and they did nothing with it, as far as I was concerned.
Q17 Chris Ruane: Of the people who were in your house offering you comfort in your time of need who were being spied on, did any of them report in later months or later years that they felt they had been watched, stopped and searched, or further spied on down the line?
Doreen Lawrence: There was only one family. We only had a few incidents where we were out on the road, around where Stephen died, and there was this young man. He was quite tall, but he was quite young. He must have been about 15. I don’t know whether or not he was shouting louder than anybody else or what he was doing, but the police managed to track him down and visited him at his home to question him.
Q18 Nicola Blackwood: I just want to take you back to the comments that you made about the liaison officers and the information that they were asking for about the other people in your home with you. Can I ask you if they ever gave you an explanation at the time as to why they were asking for that information?
Doreen Lawrence: On one other occasion, we went to the police station, because we had meetings with-I don’t remember his title-Ilsley and, I think, Commander Philpott in front of the police station, and I questioned them at the time about the process of being asked. The answer they gave then is that there are times-when incidents or murders and stuff happen, it is usually members of the family or friends. I pointed out to him that the majority of people in my home were black, and Stephen’s killers were white.
Q19 Nicola Blackwood: Did you feel that you had to answer the questions, or that you would not get the same kind of investigative service if you did not answer the questions?
Doreen Lawrence: I think we answered questions at first, not understanding what was happening. We were answering the questions until a certain point, at which we just felt it was pointless them asking us questions about the people in our home. We didn’t believe the people in our home would have been involved in Stephen’s death.
Q20 Nicola Blackwood: You said that you felt uncomfortable with the liaison officers. If they were not giving you information about the progress of the investigation, which they were not, did you feel like you had to allow them into your home?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes.
Q21 Mr Winnick: Mrs Lawrence, the justification, according to the undercover police officer, Peter Francis, is that-and obviously, if he is telling the truth, and it seems he is telling the truth, he was acting on instructions from superiors; there does not seem to be much doubt about that-the aim was to smear and discredit, if not the family itself, those associated with the family. What would you say to that as a justification for what occurred?
Doreen Lawrence: There is no justification for that. I presume, at the time, possibly because we were too outspoken and were questioning how the investigation was happening, that they probably wanted to find something-in fact, we were told on a couple of occasions that they had never met any family like us before. I find that quite disturbing, because I do not see us as the only family in this country who are law-abiding citizens and encourage our children into education, as a black family. I think basically that is what they were saying: that they have only met families who are criminals, and that what they associated with us.
Q22 Mr Winnick: Did you have, and do you continue to have, the feeling, Mrs Lawrence, that the authorities, and certainly the police, were far more interested in finding out if there would be any links between the family and criminality than they were to find the killers of Stephen?
Doreen Lawrence: Definitely so.
Mr Winnick: If that is so, it is a terrible indictment, is it not, of what happened following the brutal and racist murder of your son?
Doreen Lawrence: Definitely. Over the years we have been questioning why, with all the information the police had to find Stephen’s killers, they did not use that information. Now, looking back, the only reason is that, first, Stephen was black and they were not interested, and secondly, they felt that they are the people with the powers, so we had no right to question them when we were questioning why they were not investigating Stephen’s murder. To me, that would be just another way, I presume, to keep us quiet, so that we would not ask too many questions.
Q23 Mr Winnick: Did you get the impression that, if it had been different-if you were a white family and Stephen had been white, and all the indications were that he had been murdered by a black person-the police would have acted very differently?
Doreen Lawrence: Definitely. They would have searched everything, every house on that night, whereas in Stephen’s case they did not even knock on any doors. I was told it was too late at night for them to do that.
Q24 Mr Winnick: On the basis of the Macpherson inquiry-an inquiry that you supported-and its judgments, apart from that, do you think you have been let down by the criminal justice system from the very time that Stephen was put to death?
Doreen Lawrence: From the time Stephen was murdered, we were very much let down by the criminal justice system as well as by the police.
Q25 Chair: Following from that, do you feel, having seen these very serious revelations, that in fact you have been let down a second time, having accepted Macpherson? Presumably you still accept the conclusions of the Macpherson report, I assume?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes, I do. Yes.
Chair: Do you stand by what Macpherson has said and recommended?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes.
Chair: Do you feel you have been let down a second time because of what you have heard?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes, because, after the Macpherson report and everything, I thought we had got to the bottom of everything that happened around Stephen’s murder. This is just another revelation yet again, so I have definitely, well and truly been let down again.
Q26 Chris Ruane: What would you like to say to the officer or officers who sanctioned and ordered the spying on your family at this most vulnerable time for you?
Doreen Lawrence: It shows a lack of respect for us as a family. We have not been allowed to grieve for our son properly, because we have spent the last 20 years fighting for justice. Had we not pursued and kept on-those two who are behind bars now-that would never have happened. To say we are let down is an understatement.
Q27 Dr Huppert: Just for the record, I served with Mrs Lawrence on the National Council of Liberty. It is a pleasure to see you again. Can I just pick up on one of the things you were saying earlier about the work of Mark Ellison QC? I think the Home Secretary was quite clear in the terms of reference: he and his team should provide bi-monthly updates on progress to you and your solicitor. We will talk to him in a moment. Has that happened?
Doreen Lawrence: I am not sure if I have had bi-monthly reports. I do not remember receiving bi-monthly reports. No, I don’t think I have. No.
Q28 Dr Huppert: That is just a small point, but we will check that later, because it is clearly important that they work very closely with you. One of the issues that clearly come out of this is fundamental trust in the police, and that is an issue for many people, but it is a particular problem for black and ethnic minority groups. We have been talking about stop-and-search recently, which is a major component. This will have hit trust and morale for the police very hard. What do you think needs to happen, both about this particular case but also more broadly, to try to restore that trust and to try to get those police who do behave correctly more confident about what they are doing?
Doreen Lawrence: I think, in order to gain the public’s trust and especially my trust, you need to have an inquiry that is open and transparent. I think that would help. If we continue to do reviews and stuff behind closed doors, people will never be able to have the confidence in the police. Think over the years about stop-and-search and how people have complained, and it was not until the inquiry that it was laid bare as to, within the black community, how they were feeling. For years, people have been complaining, but nothing has come out of it, so the inquiry did that. Here we are, yet again, around police and police stop-and-search, and now undercover. Mine is not the only family, I believe, who have been around, with regard to undercover police. I just think that unless people have that confidence, there will be always that lack of trust with the police.
Q29 Dr Huppert: You said you had met with the Metropolitan Commissioner, whom we heard from yesterday. Do you think he is doing what you would expect him to be doing in this area?
Doreen Lawrence: I have spoken to the Commissioner, and-I don’t want to be disrespectful-I think he is saying all the right words; only time will tell if all his actions come to fruition.
Dr Huppert: The right words is a start. Do you think he has not had the actions that are necessary, or not done them yet, or has he always done the wrong actions?
Doreen Lawrence: I think he has not done them yet.
Q30 Chair: We know the recommendations of Macpherson. In the 20 years that you have been involved in looking at these issues, because before that you were not involved in any of this-you are probably looking back at the last 20 years and thinking, "Is it really me who has been involved at so many levels in trying to get to the truth?"-do you think that the Metropolitan Police is still institutionally racist, or do you think that lessons of Macpherson have been learned and there have been changes that satisfy you?
Doreen Lawrence: I do not think all the lessons have been learned from Macpherson’s inquiry. I think there is still an element of racism within the police. I am not certain exactly where you need to go from there, but I do not think all the lessons have been learned.
Q31 Chair: Your son Stuart has been quite outspoken about the issue of stop-and-search. Do you think that the latest report that was published yesterday, which showed that 27% of the stops and searches were unlawful, is something that should be accepted? Do you think that is fact?
Doreen Lawrence: That is probably fact. I think for Stuart it was the last time he was stopped that he got so angry about it. When Stephen was killed, it was six times more likely that black people would be stopped, and I think presently it is seven times more likely. That shows that things are not any better and, in fact, the stop-and-searches are rising. The report shows that the number of stops that have happened has not led to any arrests.
Q32 Steve McCabe: Mrs Lawrence, I just want to go back to this question of what confidence you can have in the Mark Ellison inquiry, Operation Herne, and, indeed, what confidence we can all have. As I understand it, you have said you would like a public inquiry because you would like this all out in the open. The Commissioner of Police and the Home Secretary have said, "Let Operation Herne and the Ellison inquiry take their course". Have you any reason to believe, from the feedback you have had from either of these inquiries so far, that they were pursuing this line of inquiry-that they were inquiring into undercover officers in the case of your son’s murder or attempts to smear your family? Is there any reason to believe that is the line of inquiry they were looking at, or has this merely surfaced because Francis decided to speak to the media?
Doreen Lawrence: I think it only surfaced because Francis decided to speak to the media. Mark Ellison’s review was looking into police corruption. It was not to do with the undercover officer, and this is a revelation that came out later. As for the other inquiry, I have never met the chief constable, and there is no reason why I should, because I think what he was looking at was something completely different that did not involve Stephen at the time. In his review, I do not think anything came out about Stephen or about our family-not that I was aware of.
Steve McCabe: You believe, with the information you have been given, that had Peter Francis not gone public to the media, we would never have got to know, through the existing inquiries, what happened.
Doreen Lawrence: To date, no, I would not have known.
Q33 Nicola Blackwood: Mrs Lawrence, can I talk to you a little bit about the IPCC? You have been very clear that you think the way forward for your case is an independent, judge-led inquiry, but you have also said that in order to increase public confidence you think that we need to have clear oversight with transparency. I think that that also needs to be a long-term thing, so that we can have confidence in the police. I just wonder how you feel about the IPCC, and whether you feel like it is doing the job. There have been a few reforms lately, so the IPCC can interview police officers under caution, has some more resources, can interview private contractors and things like that. I am just wondering what your experience has been, and what your judgment would be about that going forward, because obviously that is an important mechanism for monitoring what is going on within the police in the long term.
Doreen Lawrence: I know there are supposed to be some new things happening within the IPCC, but I think I have said for quite a while that I have no confidence in the IPCC because it was still police investigating police. They would be retired officers, but they are still police investigating police. It needs to be a lot more independent. If those are the new things that have been put in place, I cannot speak on that, because I don’t really know about the latest that is happening there.
Q34 Nicola Blackwood: The key is transparency and independence, as far as you are concerned, for the long term?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes. It needs to be that. In order to have the confidence of the public, the public needs to see it being transparent. Having retired officers investigating other officers-that is not being transparent. I do not think it is.
Q35 Mr Winnick: The Prime Minister the other week, Mrs Lawrence, in reply to a question from me regarding what has happened to your family, said nothing is off the table and, therefore, gave the indication that possibly a public inquiry may take place. He never said that, but he said, "Nothing is off the table". What is your position following the previous questions to you? Are you going to continue to press the Home Secretary?
Doreen Lawrence: Yes, I will.
Q36 Mr Winnick: You met her the other week. Did she give any sort of indication that she will reflect seriously and that, despite what is happening at the moment, with the inquiry being conducted by the next witness, there might be a possibility of what you want-a public inquiry into these allegations?
Doreen Lawrence: We have sent a letter to the Home Office stating just that-that we want a public inquiry. The Home Secretary, I presume, probably will have seen it by now. We set out why we want to have one. I know the Home Secretary talks about giving time for Herne as well as for Mr Ellison’s review to come to a conclusion. On waiting for those, we have no way of knowing whether or not anything will come to light in them, and I think sometimes that could be delay tactics. Now that it is something that we want and the public want, I think we should look to have it now, rather than later. After 20 years, I want to come to an end. I do not want this going on and on. We have just been drip-fed over the years, and I just say enough is enough now.
Mr Winnick: It is not likely that after 20 years anyone in Government is likely to underestimate your determination.
Doreen Lawrence: Yes.
Q37 Chair: Mrs Lawrence, the entire political establishment of the country came to St Martin-in-the-Fields to honour the memory of Stephen. What you are telling this Committee today is very clear: that you want a full public inquiry into the latest revelations, and that you have no trust and confidence in the police being able to do this investigation. Is that right?
Doreen Lawrence: That is right, yes.
Q38 Chair: As far as the Prime Minister is concerned, you have not met him as yet?
Doreen Lawrence: Not on this, no.
Q39 Chair: But you would like him to make this decision to hold a public inquiry?
Doreen Lawrence: Definitely. In fact, when I heard the Prime Minister speaking in the House of Commons, one of the things I reflected on was, "When Stephen was killed, nobody in the House was interested in my son’s murder." Even when we had those two convictions, I do not remember hearing anybody in the House saying, "At long last, we have had some justice." To hear the Prime Minister speak out now, that was something new for me, and I welcomed that.
Q40 Chair: You would welcome that one step further in the Prime Minister holding a public inquiry?
Doreen Lawrence: I would definitely welcome the Prime Minister holding a public inquiry.
Q41 Chair: In terms of Stephen Lawrence’s legacy, you obviously have the Stephen Lawrence Centre, and there is a lot of good work being done by those who are involved in it. What would you like Stephen’s legacy to be?
Doreen Lawrence: I think what we started on and what we are continuing to do is look at how we help young people to achieve their ambitions in life. We have managed to ensure that over nine young people are qualified architects now; we want to build on that and look at other professions to see how we can encourage and support young people to achieve their goals in life, because that is what Stephen wanted. What we want is for young people, in Stephen’s memory, to achieve their dreams.
Chair: Mrs Lawrence, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us today. We are most grateful. Thank you.
Examination of Witness
Witness: Mark Ellison QC gave evidence.
Q42 Chair: Good afternoon, Mr Ellison. First of all, thank you very much for coming at such short notice before this Committee. You were appointed by the Home Secretary last year to investigate these matters. Is it correct that you have only met Mrs Lawrence once last year, and again a fortnight ago?
Mark Ellison: I think that is right. The intervening meeting was by telephone because Doreen could not make it, I believe.
Q43 Chair: Forgive me, but I would have thought, if this is an inquiry that relates to serious matters concerning the Lawrence family and what happened to Stephen Lawrence, you would have been expected to meet them more often than once last year and once a fortnight ago.
Mark Ellison: Perhaps I can just explain the basis on which we embarked on the review.
Chair: Please, yes.
Mark Ellison: We had a number of meetings before we agreed the terms of reference, and I explained to Doreen and Neville Lawrence how I wanted to go about the review, given that it was a review rather than an inquiry with any specific powers. In agreeing, as I did, specifically to provide bi-monthly updates to the family, I indicated that, with regard to the extent to which I would be able to go into any great detail as to what I was being told or was finding out, I felt the best way of conducting the review was to give a level of confidentiality to those who provided me with information until I reached the point, which I had not yet reached, where I was able to assess the whole of the material within the context of my terms of reference and come to an objective assessment as to what conclusions should be drawn. As I understood it, we all understood that.
I then provided bi-monthly updates-I cannot say it was precisely every two months, but it was roughly bi-monthly-by letter, certainly up to and including a March letter, which went out to both Neville and Doreen, but they were rather bland updates in the sense that I have described. I indicated they were able to come and see me whenever they wanted to and, if there was a particular issue that they were concerned with, it may have been better for us to discuss it. It was a two-party relationship, and I do not think Doreen suggested that I refused to have contact with her.
Q44 Chair: No, she did not. You were here when she gave evidence. The concern that I have is that you were appointed on 31 May last year. You were asked to do the job, which presumably is not a full-time job.
Mark Ellison: No, it is not a full-time job.
Q45 Chair: You are a practicing QC, so you are busy doing important matters concerned with that. You were due to be reporting this month in July.
Mark Ellison: No, in fact. I took the job on the express understanding that, first of all-because there are two of us engaged in the exercise, although I am leading it-we had to fit it around our existing commitments, because we could not get rid of those. There was a limit to which we could apply ourselves fully to it at that stage.
Chair: Yes. The Home Secretary certainly informed the House that she hoped that it would be completed by July.
Mark Ellison: Hoped; when the July date was mentioned to me at the outset we had not yet scoped even the material that we were going to need to look at, which we were told was over 100 crates of varying sizes. I indicated it was impossible to say when we would be ready with the report when we do not know the size of the exercise we are undertaking.
Q46 Chair: As you said very clearly to this Committee, you were only conducting a review. Given what you have said and given the evidence you have just heard from Doreen Lawrence, it is very clear, is it not, that there is a very powerful case for a full public inquiry into the latest revelations, simply because you were there to look at very serious allegations of police corruption involved in the Stephen Lawrence case and now, on top of that, we have these allegations of undercover police officers? You are not going to be able to do this huge amount of work, considering you have had to look at 100 crates of evidence.
Mark Ellison: We are, I would have thought, a little more than halfway through the exercise that we were undertaking. We still have a substantial amount of material to look at.
Chair: The point I am making is, given all that and having listened to Mrs Lawrence-presumably this is the first time you have heard her, live, making this assertion-
Mark Ellison: That is wrong, in fact. We meet, and she indicated her views to me when we met recently, so it is not the first time.
Q47 Chair: What is the argument against it? It seems very clear that you have been doing this for a year. You are halfway through the work, and you were supposed to complete in July. You made it very clear to the Home Secretary you could not complete in July. Mrs Lawrence has called for a public inquiry. Others have called for a public inquiry. You are not going to be able to handle this, given that you have other full-time commitments. What is the case against having the full public inquiry that she asks for?
Mark Ellison: I would like to underline that it is not my decision whether there is a public inquiry.
Chair: No, but what is your view?
Mark Ellison: Can I just answer the question? I am undertaking the review I was asked to undertake. I have been asked to cover additional matters within that same review, which I am prepared to cover. While I am doing my review, Operation Herne is investigating the undercover policing side, prioritising, as I understand it, the Lawrence aspects. This autumn, there is an opportunity with regard to that the stage that we have reached. We will be seeking out and trying to speak to relevant individuals for further information and answers regarding some information that we already have, and they will speak to us.
Q48 Chair: Who are "they"?
Mark Ellison: Those individuals. They are retired police officers, serving police officers and other people. There is, as I understand it from the Commissioner and everything that he has said, a willingness for the Met, through him, to seek to address these issues once and for all, for obvious reasons.
Chair: Sure. Mr Ellison-
Mark Ellison: I am just answering the question. I am sorry. I do insist.
Q49 Chair: I just want a specific thing. I do not want to know the process, because colleagues will cover the process of how many crates you look at. From what you have just told us and what we have just heard, the issue is this: we have heard from Mrs Lawrence-the mother of Stephen Lawrence who has been involved in this campaign for 20 years-that there ought to be a full public inquiry. One of the things that she has said to us very clearly, and perhaps Parliament should have done this earlier in the Lawrence case but did not do it-a lot of people have failed to deliver on the Stephen Lawrence case-was that there ought to be a full public inquiry, led by a judge who is full-time and able to do this work. We are dealing with Mick Creedon when he comes before the Committee next week on Operation Herne. They have 50,000 documents that they have to look through. Do you think there ought to be a public inquiry in this case, given what you have heard today, and given the length of time it has taken so far? It is just that answer I need: a yes or a no.
Mark Ellison: I don’t know yet, from the work that I have done. One of the reasons why, as I understand it-although the Home Secretary will obviously speak for herself-she may feel it desirable that both Operation Herne and I try to complete the tasks that we have, as they affect the Lawrence case, is that by doing so we will clarify that very issue.
Chair: Clarify whether you should have a public inquiry?
Mark Ellison: Whether a public inquiry-
Q50 Chair: It is kind of a pre-public-inquiry stage?
Mark Ellison: It may be. It depends on the results of the work that we do in the autumn.
Chair: I understand. Thank you; that is very helpful. We are hearing from other witnesses on Herne next week, so we will be able to find out from them.
Q51 Steve McCabe: Just two quick points, Mr Ellison. First, are you engaged in a regular exchange of information with the officers who are conducting Operation Herne?
Mark Ellison: I have met with them more than once. I understand what they are doing. I am offering suggestions as to what they might also think about doing, in the same way that I do when I engage with any police investigation. So yes, there is a dialogue.
Q52 Steve McCabe: So this is a police inquiry and a review working in tandem?
Mark Ellison: Their inquiry is far broader than the aspects that directly impact on the Lawrence case.
Steve McCabe: But you are working in tandem? That is the point.
Mark Ellison: They are carrying out their investigations as an investigation team. I am being informed of what they are doing, and I am offering views as to what else they might do.
Q53 Steve McCabe: Has either your review or their work to date uncovered the revelations that Peter Francis disclosed to the media? Were you pursuing that line, or is that an entirely additional element?
Mark Ellison: The Peter Francis allegations are an entirely new area for me, but I should make it plain that Operation Herne approached me earlier in the year with the fact that there were aspects of what they were looking into that may touch on the Lawrence case, with which I was engaged. To make it absolutely clear, Peter Francis’s allegations are completely new.
Q54 Steve McCabe: When they approached you and said there were aspects, were they disclosing to you that they knew there was an undercover operation designed to smear the Lawrence family? Is that what they said to you?
Mark Ellison: No, because that is the substance of Peter Francis’s allegations and that element is completely new.
Q55 Steve McCabe: What was it they were able to disclose to you about the Lawrence family?
Mark Ellison: Some aspects of material, which I do not think it is appropriate for me to go into. I have explained once, and I think I should repeat it, that I have undertaken this review on the understanding that I will keep the material that belongs to others that finds its way to me, at the moment, confidential until I have had a chance to determine what is relevant to my terms of reference. I am making the point that they initiated contact with me in relation to Operation Herne because there was some material of potential relevance to what I was looking into. I do not think I can go further than that.
Q56 Steve McCabe: Which may or may not have anything to do with undercover policing or smearing an innocent family?
Mark Ellison: I do not think I want to go into the details.
Steve McCabe: You cannot tell us which it is?
Q57 Chair: What you have said so far is that this is going to go on for years, is it not? If you are engaged with Mick Creedon on a pre-public-inquiry investigation, this is going to go on for years, adding to the distress and the stress that the Lawrence family have faced over the last 20 years. This is never going to end.
Mark Ellison: I would be putting myself in a frail position if I were to predict how long this will go on for, but I have undertaken to the Home Secretary that if Operation Herne manages to prioritise, in the way that they say they can, the Lawrence aspects of Operation Herne, and I am allowed to complete the exercise that I intend to do of speaking to people, I think that I will be in a better position at the end of this year to put clarity on that question.
Chair: By the end of this year; thank you.
Q58 Chris Ruane: Just to pursue that, Chair, Doreen and Neville Lawrence have been pursuing truth and justice with dignity for 20 years now. It was their son whom they lost. Our hearts-the hearts of everybody in this room-go out to them for what they have been through. Twenty years is a heck of a long time, and your inquiry is taking place now. New revelations are coming out. Your inquiry has been extended by a year and it is a pre-inquiry to another inquiry. Do you not think that human compassion should say enough is enough for this poor woman and her family, and that she deserves some closure now, and not a pre-inquiry to an inquiry, but a final inquiry at the highest level, with a full-time judge who has all the powers to demand answers from whatever level-political, police or whatever-to find out what happened?
Mark Ellison: If there was a means whereby I could assist Doreen to have an answer to these issues overnight, of course I would adopt it or push for it, but there is the practical problem of the vastness of the material, the need to dig as deep as one should to try to find the answer, and it does take time.
Q59 Chris Ruane: How much time does it take-25 years’ worth of digging?
Mark Ellison: I have only been digging for the last year. It does take time.
Q60 Chris Ruane: It has been going on for 20 years. After the pre-inquiry and another inquiry, it may be 25 years on. Is it right for Mrs Lawrence to go through that?
Mark Ellison: Of course it is not right. I do not think anyone is suggesting it is.
Q61 Nicola Blackwood: I would like to get to the bottom of the process and the powers that you have as part of your review, Mr Ellison. I see that your terms of reference are to try to establish whether there was corruption within the Stephen Lawrence investigation in the first place. You are able to talk to people, but is that if they talk to you voluntarily? You are not able to require them to speak to you?
Mark Ellison: Yes. I have no formal powers. I have no power to get, through legal means, either documents or people coming to speak to me. I can approach them and ask them.
Q62 Nicola Blackwood: If you thought that there was a piece of information that you needed in order to get to the bottom of this, what would you do?
Mark Ellison: I would ask for it through the contacts that I have with the police, who I have to say I think I have developed a decent working relationship with.
Q63 Nicola Blackwood: Would Operation Herne get that information for you, do you think? Would there be another way that you could get that information, if there was a block to finding the truth?
Mark Ellison: I will use any means I can think of to get to the right information that I am trying to get in terms of who I ask, but I am in the end dependent on what they give me.
Q64 Nicola Blackwood: If, during the course of this evidence-gathering, you uncover evidence of corruption or of this smear campaign, do you refer that evidence to the police for arrest and charge? What do you do with that evidence at that point?
Mark Ellison: The terms of reference are for me to assess whether there is any evidence that provides reasonable cause to suspect that there was corruption, and also to indicate if there are reasonable further lines of inquiry that I have not been able to pursue.
Nicola Blackwood: Yes, I understand that.
Mark Ellison: I will make those recommendations, and I will not make the decision as to what the appropriate authority is to investigate.
Q65 Nicola Blackwood: No. I understand that. That is not quite what I am asking. I understand that you are quite a distinguished barrister, accustomed to working in fraud and complex terrorism, so you would be able to analyse these documents and ascertain whether criminal activity has gone on. If you find, in the course of your work, what you think are criminal offences having gone on, would you wait until the end to make recommendations, or would you refer them immediately to the police?
Mark Ellison: I would judge that on the strength of the material. I can see no reason for not making a reference to the police if it was appropriate, but the difficulty is getting to the point where I have looked at things and know what I have in total on a topic before I make that assessment.
Q66 Nicola Blackwood: Do you think that the barrier here to making progress as quickly as you like is the resource that you have at your disposal, with the volume of evidence that you are trying to get through?
Mark Ellison: Yes, there is a lot of material, and the two of us tackle it independently of each other and then discuss what it is we have seen.
Q67 Chair: "The two of you" would be who?
Mark Ellison: Alison Morgan, who was my junior at the recent murder trial, is also working with me.
Chair: Thank you.
Q68 Nicola Blackwood: How many hours a week do you think you are able to give to this?
Mark Ellison: In fact, from now until Christmas, we are able to give virtually every hour that we have working. That is how it has panned out. Over this last year it has been more difficult, because of the existing commitments that we had.
Q69 Bridget Phillipson: Mr Ellison, just on that point, obviously we appreciate that you have other responsibilities, and you are no doubt a very busy person, but up until this point, how much time have you been able to dedicate on a week-by-week basis to your work?
Mark Ellison: The two of us together have dedicated about a total of seven months’ worth of our time. It has been limited because there are other commitments, as I say. That was the position from the outset and the understanding on which we undertook the review. We never promised that we could down tools.
Q70 Bridget Phillipson: Have you had discussions with the Home Secretary or others about the need for greater resourcing? Have you indicated that, clearly, you have a lot of work to get through and, as you say, with other responsibilities that cannot-
Mark Ellison: We have access to any resources that we need. The difficulty in conducting a review like this is that you do need to read the relevant material yourself, and there is a limit to which you can delegate that to somebody else, frankly, to do it properly.
Q71 Dr Huppert: Mr Ellison, I realise you cannot talk about what you have found. Can I just check that you are getting the things you are supposed to have the ability to get? There are a series of things, but a yes or no will do-hopefully a yes. The terms of reference say you will have access to all files held by the Metropolitan Police Service relating to the investigations into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. You have had that?
Mark Ellison: Correct.
Q72 Dr Huppert: You will have access to any files the review team considers necessary to carry out your review?
Mark Ellison: Correct.
Q73 Dr Huppert: You will be able to speak to anyone, including serving police officers, whom you wish to speak to?
Mark Ellison: Yes.
Q74 Dr Huppert: I know we touched on this earlier. Mick Creedon was told to make sure that you have access to any relevant material uncovered in the course of Operation Herne.
Mark Ellison: Yes.
Q75 Dr Huppert: You have had all of those, so you are getting all the access that you need. That is very good to be reassured of. Can I also ask about the breadth? The Home Secretary, rather remarkably, said in her statement on 24 June that she encouraged you to go as far and wide as you would like in your investigation, which is quite a power. How far and wide do you think you will go? Will you, for example, touch on issues around the bugging, admitted by the Metropolitan Police, of Duwayne Brooks, whom I should declare I also know? Will you be able to look that broadly? How constrained do you feel yourself to be?
Mark Ellison: I have been told that I can look at anything that is relevant to my terms of reference, and even something like that, if it demonstrates a cultural approach by the Met, is relevant to what I am looking into. The end result of what we have to do will be to draw the appropriate inferences from a whole lot of different circumstances. It is a classic lawyer’s circumstantial case. Anything that we feel informs us on those terms of reference we will either seek out or listen to, if somebody chooses to tell us about them.
Q76 Dr Huppert: Are there any things that you would want us to recommend to the Home Secretary to make your ability to do your work better?
Mark Ellison: There is no difficulty with resources. As I have explained the process and the powers, we have to do it ourselves, to a very great extent, to do it properly.
Q77 Dr Huppert: There is nothing that we could suggest that would make you more able to deliver your work?
Mark Ellison: Not that I can think of sitting here, no.
Q78 Mr Winnick: Is this not, to a large extent, a matter of confidence as far as the Lawrence family are concerned? I saw you listening to the evidence given by Mrs Lawrence when she said, in answer to a question, that she felt her family had been let down by the criminal justice system for over 20 years. Without any reflection on yourself-and I expect that is the view of Mrs Lawrence-would you accept that, unless the Lawrence family have confidence in any inquiry that is being undertaken, that is a weakness, to say the least?
Mark Ellison: I have said to Doreen’s face when we met recently that I completely understand her perspective on this. If one even begins to contemplate what she and her family have been through in the last 20-odd years, it has strong validity to say that they believe that the only thing that will get to the bottom of this is a public inquiry with all the evidence heard in public. My position is simply that I am engaged in the job that I was asked to do a year ago. I have been asked to expand that out into some more recent matters, and I do not in any way intend to shut out the appropriateness of a public inquiry. Having done what I have done to complete the task that I am trying to do over the autumn may make the issue slightly clearer, in terms of where we are-whether witnesses are co-operating or not, whether there is a conflict of evidence between two people that needs to be thrashed out in a public courtroom-type forum, as in an inquiry, and so on. There may, therefore, be some value in allowing that to finish before that decision is taken.
Can I just add one more point on the issue of a public inquiry, which I wanted to make when Mr Vaz was asking me questions? If today somebody said, "We are going to announce and set up a public inquiry in this case", that inquiry would be highly unlikely, as I understand it, to hear any evidence for many, many months, long after I would have got to a point of being able at least to report on the work that we have done, and how much we have met with people who will not talk, issues that people will not address and conflicts of evidence.
The Macpherson inquiry, being an inquiry rather than a review that is done, as has been said, behind closed doors, or a police investigation, started with an undertaking of immunity to everybody who gave evidence in order to get to the truth, which has immediate consequences in terms of the potential to bring criminal charges. That potential will subsist while Operation Herne is applying itself, in the way that Mr Creedon has said it will, to these allegations and while my review continues. It may be that it is premature to lose that opportunity, because we are still both finding a lot out.
Q79 Mr Winnick: Say that at the time, Mr Ellison, the same arguments were advanced against having an inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence-the Macpherson inquiry. Those arguments could have been used at the time against an inquiry. Do you see why perhaps the feeling is that not having a public inquiry is, in the view of the family and their supporters, who want one, simply finding an excuse?
Mark Ellison: I completely understand their feelings. I just point out that if, for the moment, one assumes that Peter Francis’s recent allegations are true, it must be the fact, must it not, that the Macpherson inquiry did not flush that out, despite the fact that those events had happened before the Macpherson inquiry took place? So there are limitations even on a public inquiry. It has a hearing in public. It is transparent. There are powers, and people can be questioned. But if Peter Francis’s revelations recently are right, Macpherson did not get to the bottom of it in a public inquiry.
Q80 Mr Winnick: Perhaps that only explains how the police or the state itself can keep its secrets even from such an inquiry. Can I finally put this question to you, following up what the Chair asked: how soon do you think you will be able to give a final report to the Home Secretary? You are to provide bi-monthly updates to the Home Secretary. You are also going to keep Mrs and Mr Lawrence aware of what is occurring on a regular basis. Can you give any indication of when it is likely? Is it going to be this year, next year or when?
Mark Ellison: I am going to aim for the end of this year, and I will apply every possible effort to achieve that. I cannot tell you for definite whether I will have a complete, full report by the end of the year, but I will provide a report at the end of the year that describes the situation, particularly in the context of whether we feel that we are making good progress or whether we are not, because it seems to me that is informative to all. I understand the Home Secretary has said that she will be strongly guided by what we may say about whether we are failing to achieve what we would like to achieve.
Q81 Mr Winnick: It will be basically an interim report?
Mark Ellison: It may possibly be an interim report, but-
Mr Winnick: A final report, unless there is a public inquiry, could be a year away, two years?
Mark Ellison: I really cannot comment. I do not expect it to be. I hope that it will not be. I would be a fool if I sat here and said that, whatever unforeseen event may happen between now and the end of the year, I will nevertheless provide a report.
Q82 Chris Ruane: Your brief has already been widened to date because of new information that has come to light and your timescales have been lengthened. If further information comes to light and your brief is widened once again and your timescale is extended once again, will there ever come a point where you say, "Enough is enough. We do not want to be reviewing all these 100 crates again, or possibly another 100 crates that might come to light. Enough is enough. The family must have what they want and a full public inquiry"?
Mark Ellison: I fully appreciate that it is in nobody’s interests for me to continue to undertake a task that is either hopeless or not one that I should be doing. I am not at this point doing that. If it comes to the point where that arises, I will say so.
Q83 Chair: The concern we have is your relationship with Operation Herne. Of course we are going to hear from Mick Creedon next week. Mick Creedon has already told us that he has 50,000 documents that he has to look through. You have said that you have been given access to those documents. I am just thinking of you and your colleague Alison Morgan sitting surrounded by your crates-it was 100, and it is now 50 crates-and then more boxes of 50,000 documents that Mick Creedon has not even looked at. When you say you have access to these documents, he has obviously said that you can come and look at them whenever you want, but no one is sifting through them for you. How would you know whether any of that is relevant?
Mark Ellison: Absolutely. To some extent I have to defer the initial sifting to Operation Herne. What they have indicated is that the material that impacts on the Lawrence case is a tiny proportion of that 50,000. They are prioritising it, and they expect to be able to present us with the results of their review on these Lawrence issues in September, when I will be picking that up and questioning it and making my own suggestions in relation to it. From what I have been told-40 years’ worth of undercover policing by the SDS, 50,000 crates-the Lawrence aspect is much less.
Q84 Chair: But it is how you find this. It is a needle in a haystack.
Mark Ellison: They have had a long time to catalogue it and begin to use it.
Q85 Chair: You would have thought so, but you have not heard the evidence we heard from Pat Gallen that they were at it for 20 months, it cost £1.2 million, and yet they still have not been able to arrest anybody. You have been at it for seven months. Have you uncovered any corruption?
Mark Ellison: I told you I will not go into what I have discovered or not discovered.
Q86 Chair: But you told Nicola Blackwood that if you discovered sufficient corruption that will merit criminal action, you would have referred it.
Mark Ellison: No. I said that if it was appropriate, I would consider doing so.
Q87 Chair: At the moment you have not?
Mark Ellison: I am not going to go into what I have found.
Q88 Chair: What I am saying is that after seven months there have been no arrests and no referrals in your particular case-if there were, I am sure we would have found out by now. Look at Operation Herne, which is 20 months costing £1.2 million. They found absolutely nothing, so far as we can see. This is going to go on for years, is it not?
Mark Ellison: I don’t know that. I cannot answer that question. I have every reason, from what I have been told by Operation Herne, to believe that what they told me is right and that they will be able to focus on the Lawrence side of their investigations relatively swiftly. They have signed up to the undertaking that we expect to be able to provide a report by the end of the year. That means they are doing their job with me looking at what they are doing and dealing with that aspect of what they are looking into.
Q89 Chair: We accept yours is not a public inquiry where you can summon witnesses. You do not have the powers to do so. You appear to be going through your contacts in the police. There are seven additional Metropolitan Police officers now assisting Operation Herne, and you have heard what Mrs Lawrence has said today. You have heard the questioning from colleagues on the Home Affairs Select Committee. Does this give you comfort that this is heading in the right direction, or does this worry and concern you that this may not be going in the right direction and, at the end of the day, when you come to a considered view-by December, you say-you may be saying, "Let us hold a public inquiry"?
Mark Ellison: I may. All I can say is that I approach every task that I have to do with an open mind and try to gather every piece of information I can before I evaluate where I am with it.
Q90 Chair: You are now full-time, after being part-time for seven months. Are you being paid by the Home Office for this, and what is your salary?
Mark Ellison: Yes. I do not have a salary. I am being paid what I understand is a standard Government rate.
Q91 Chair: Which is what? I am afraid none of us are paid the standard Government rate, so you have to help us.
Mark Ellison: It is an hourly rate, which is applied on a daily basis, which is standard for either a QC or a junior for Government work.
Chair: What is that?
Mark Ellison: £250 an hour for me. I am afraid I have not been indecent enough to inquire for Ms Morgan, but I will imagine it will be a little less.
Chair: You are on public funds. It is not an indecency to ask. Even Members of Parliament have their salaries put on websites, so it is not an indecent thing to ask.
Mark Ellison: I have answered the question.
Q92 Chair: It is £250 an hour. Do you know how much it has cost so far?
Mark Ellison: Not precisely. We tried to tot it up this afternoon in case you asked, because for some reason I thought that might well be something that you would ask us. Just let me go back to my note, because it is the both of us combined. The two of us, taking us both together, have been paid a total of £190,000-odd in the last 12 months.
Chair: Since the start of the inquiry?
Mark Ellison: Yes.
Q93 Chair: It is only you and Ms Morgan who are doing this?
Mark Ellison: Correct.
Chair: There is nobody else who comes in and opens the boxes and sifts through the material? Just the two of you?
Mark Ellison: We are the two who are doing the sifting.
Chair: Mr Ellison, thank you very much for coming. You have enlightened the Committee greatly today. We are most grateful. Thank you very much.
Mark Ellison: Thank you very much.