The mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence has said the “truth must come out” following the death of Sarah Everard as she backed a judge-led public inquiry into the horrific case.
Speaking in Parliament, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon highlighted the far-reaching changes made in the wake of the landmark report by Sir William Macpherson into the racist killing of her son in 1993, which described the Metropolitan Police as “institutionally racist”.
Campaigners argue a statutory inquiry, where witnesses are compelled to give evidence, is the only way to ensure all the lessons are learned and trust is restored after the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer.
Wayne Couzens used his warrant card and handcuffs to snatch the 33-year-old marketing executive off the street, using Covid lockdown rules to make a false arrest.
He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars in September.
It subsequently emerged the 48-year-old was known as “the rapist” in his previous job at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary because he made female colleagues feel so uncomfortable.
He had also previously been accused of indecent exposure, including just days before Ms Everard’s murder.
The case has rocked public confidence in the police and shone a spotlight on the culture within the service and the conduct of some officers.
Lady Lawrence said: “Many times in this House the Macpherson report has been quoted because it stands for many changes in the legal system and beyond.”
Highlighting the widespread demand for a judge-led public inquiry into Ms Everard’s murder, the Labour peer added: “Like the Stephen Lawrence case, the truth must come out.”
Responding, Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: “I couldn’t agree more that the truth must come out.
“And the truth must come out both at pace and in a way that the family will be satisfied in the way it has been conducted.”
She pointed out the non-statutory inquiry announced by the Government into the circumstances around Ms Everard’s could be converted into a statutory investigation if required.
Former Supreme Court justice Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood said: “The minister must be aware of the deep public concern following the Sarah Everard case.
“Would she not agree that the fiercely independent Macpherson inquiry and report into the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence went a long way towards restoring the trust of the black community in the police?
“Can the minister suggest any reason why a similar judge-led inquiry with similar powers… wouldn’t similarly be the obvious best way of examining a predatory police culture in certain quarters and restoring the trust of young women in this country in our police force, which is surely a vital consideration today?”
Lady Williams said: “Trust and confidence in the police must be restored.
“The way we wish this inquiry to proceed would be at pace and to get to the nub of the various issues the inquiry will look into.
“If the Home Secretary is not satisfied that a non-statutory inquiry is fulfilling those commitments she can convert it to a statutory inquiry.”
Stressing the need for a statutory inquiry, Labour frontbencher Lord Rosser highlighted the lengthy review of the unsolved 1987 murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan, amid claims of obstruction by Scotland Yard.
He added: “The evidence also indicates that the public spotlight of a statutory inquiry and what it will and does reveal during the hearings promotes action while the inquiry is in progress.
“It also makes it harder for the final recommendations to be ignored or watered down.
“Why does the Government continue to resist a full statutory inquiry… in which the public can have full trust and confidence?”
Lady Williams said: “We want to get to the stage where conclusion s are reached and changes are recommended quickly.
“This cannot be an inquiry that takes years to get to that stage.
“A non-statutory inquiry does allow for greater flexibility, it can be tailored to the issues and is likely to be faster, but we are able to turn this into a statutory inquiry if needs be.”