According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), none of the four retired officers they have been investigating will be charged over the original investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
An investigation into the officers’ conduct has been ongoing since 2021, aiming to determine whether the officers committed criminal offences or misconduct during the murder inquiry. In announcing their decision not to prosecute the individuals, the CPS said they understand this ‘may be deeply disappointing’ to Lawrence’s family.
The head of the CPS special crime and counter terrorism division, Nick Price, said in a statement: ‘Charges of misconduct in public office were considered concerning the four officers’ management of the initial six weeks of the murder investigation. Having meticulously reviewed substantial amounts of available evidence and material in this complex case, we have decided that no criminal charges will be brought against the four suspects.’
He also confirmed no charges would be brought following a separate National Crime Agency investigation into allegations of perjury by a suspect who had alleged the initial murder investigation was corrupt.
Three of the officers in question were highly criticised by the 1999 McPherson Report into the investigation. It rebuked their decision to make no early arrests, despite them receiving information identifying four prime suspects within a day of the murder. The McPherson inquiry concluded that first investigation into the stabbing was ‘marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers.’
This comes a day after the head of Metropolitan Police, Sir Mark Rowley, told the London assembly’s police and crime committee that the errors made by police early in the Lawrence investigation were ‘egregious’. He said: ‘The sad truth is that if you do such a bad job at an investigation in its first weeks and months, you lose evidence … some of it can never be recovered. You miss forensic opportunities. You miss witness opportunities and witnesses’ memories degrade.
‘I don’t want to pretend that you can necessarily always catch up the ground that you’ve so badly lost in the early days. That’s what makes it so egregious, and makes the error so egregious, that they’re not repairable always.’
Rowley rejected the claim by the BBC made last week that they had uncovered a new suspect in the murder, Matthew White, who was named by the Met after their investigation, as he has been a suspect beforehand.