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Thursday, October 1, 1998 Published at 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK


Police chief says sorry

Sir Paul is facing demands for his resignation

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon has apologised to the parents of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The BBC's Community Affairs Correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti reports
Speaking at the inquiry into the murder, he admitted there had been "failures" by his officers.

But he denied there was institutional racism in the London force - provoking calls of "resign" from the public gallery.

Stephen, an 18-year-old A-level student, was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south London, in April 1993.

Although five teenagers were arrested over the killing, none was convicted.

It was Sir Paul's first time before the inquiry at the Elephant and Castle.

[ image: Demonstrators were kept away from Sir Paul]
Demonstrators were kept away from Sir Paul
About 40 protesters were waiting outside the building as he arrived. Inside, Stephen's parents Neville and Doreen sat just behind him.

The commissioner said he "deeply regretted" that he had not brought the killers to justice.

"We have not been as effective as I would have wished in cases involving allegations of racist behaviour by police officers.

"I have always acknowledged that we have individual racists in the police service and set out my determination to deal with them."

But later, during questioning by inquiry chairman Sir William Macpherson, Sir Paul said: "I am not in denial. I am not using weasel words to dilute the impact or need for reform.

Chris Boothman: Unique opportunity for Paul Condon
"But if you label my service as institutionally racist, then the average police officer and member of the public will assume a finding of conscious, wilful or deliberate action or inaction to the detriment of ethnic minority Londoners."

Sir William said Mr and Mrs Lawrence had correctly "detected" almost immediately that officers were not properly fulfilling their duties following Stephen's death.

He added: "I have looked at all the correspondence. Assurances were repeatedly given to MPs and members of the public that the investigation had been properly handled.

[ image: Stephen was killed by a group of white youths]
Stephen was killed by a group of white youths
"I just wondered how that squared with your acceptance now that the investigation went badly wrong?"

Sir Paul pointed to the internal review of the murder investigation carried out by former Flying Squad chief Roderick Barker several months into the investigation, which cleared the force of any wrong-doing.

Earlier during the inquiry Sir William dismissed the review as "indefensible" and effectively labelled it a whitewash.

Sir William last week made clear his strong views on the alleged police bungling and racism.

Senior police officers have now admitted a series of errors during their investigation.

Capital problems

Sir Paul said it was vital that the Met should have new and harsher ways to deal with "bad" officers.

He said: "London is becoming increasingly diverse and we accept that our officers are not fully equipped to deal with the increasingly rich diversity of the public we serve."

Sir Paul insisted the Met was coming to terms with policing a city as ethnically diverse as London, pointing out that since he had become Commissioner in February 1993 the number of ethnic officers had risen by 50%.

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