Church calls for inquiry into Stephen Lawrence claims

Allegations that police attempted to smear the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence must be fully investigated, the Church of England has said. 

Lawrence was 18 when he was killed in a racially-motivated attack by a gang of white youths as he waited at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993.  

Former undercover police officer Peter Francis told the Guardian newspaper that he was asked by superiors to find "dirt" to use against the Lawrence family.  

The Church of England's Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) said a full and independent investigation was necessary to ascertain whether the allegations pointed to a "few bad apples" in the police force or "a rottenness at the core of UK policing". 

"If it is indeed the case that a cohort of officers has been complicit in a prolonged cover up, hiding the truth from the Macpherson enquiry and from the groups both within the Home Office and UK policing that were set up in the wake of Stephen Lawrence's murder and which sought to address the structural failings in how we police our society, then the integrity of all that well intentioned work is called into question, and we would be forced to conclude that a conspiracy of silence has continued until 2013 to prevent the full truth from emerging," the CMEAC said.

The CMEAC went on to say that the allegations resonated with the belief of many black and minority ethnic Anglicans "that institutional racism within UK policing is not simply an entry in the history books, but a sickening reality today".

"We applaud the significant steps forward made in many parts of the country in recent years through sensitive Neighbourhood Policing programmes," it said.

"However, we are now presented with serious allegations that our police services remain tainted by the presence, across the ranks, of those who are prepared to collude, right up to the present day, in a cover up of massive proportions.

"We the Church, with 25 years' experience of addressing racism in our structure, stand ready to play any part we can in the process of discovery, admission of fault, penitence and commitment to finding a new and better future which lies at the heart of all that we, as Christians, stand for.

"This is the way forward to which we now urgently commend all with responsibility for our policing."