N81: File Notes SDS

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal at Powerbase - investigating corporate and police spying on activists



Part of a series on
undercover police officers
'N81'
Unknown face.png
Alias: unknown
Deployment: 1996-ca. 2001/2002
Unit:
Targets:
Black & family justice campaigns

On 18 August 1998 Bob Lambert wrote a File Note, setting out the meeting between himself, undercover officer N81 and Richard Walton. Walton was at that point a member of the Lawrence Review Team, and preparing Commissioner Paul Condon's submission answering the findings of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. In 2014, Ellison Review exposed the meeting, and considered it highly inappropriate in hindsight.

In its report, the Ellison Review reproduced the File Note in full, and included several other SDS notes written right after the meeting with crucial details on intelligence gathering and the use of it. This page quotes the section from the Ellison Review presenting these File Notes.(Emphasis in Ellison Review)[1]

This reference page with background material is part of a series on undercover officer N81 spying on black family justice campaigns in the 1990s and 2000s. Related pages and profiles discussing and analysing these File Notes:


SDS Notes in the Ellison Review

6.15.2 How the Special Demonstration Squad used N81’s intelligence at the time of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry
Special Demonstration Squad records
We have seen SDS records indicating that N81’s reporting was used in connection with the squad’s established ‘public order’ remit, in that it was disseminated by Special Branch in traditional sanitised form to relevant MPS units with responsibility for the planning of a proportionate police response to potential outbreaks of public disorder.
We have also seen SDS records that appear to be connected to the paragraph we have already cited forming part of the value of N81’s work as included in N81’s recommendation for a commendation in 2001, namely:
“The provision of a perspective to those charged with formulating the MPS position on key strategic issues. [N81] was thus debriefed thoroughly by the Stephen Lawrence Review Team as it considered how the MPS might regain the confidence of the black community, how it might assess the potential for disorder by sections of that community and what might be the consequences of sustained political pressure on the MPS from hard-left and other groups not well disposed to the police.”
This seems to us to be a clear indication from within the SDS that the use made of N81’s reporting at the time of the Public Inquiry was more than the traditional ‘public order’ remit. This accords with other SDS records and retrospective reports on the SDS from 2000 onwards that refer to the SDS broadening its ‘customer base’ from around 1997, when it changed its name to the Special Duties Section.


File note by Bob Lambert, 18 August 1998
This file note reported a meeting held on 14 August 1998 between N81, Detective Inspector Bob Lambert and Detective Inspector Richard Walton.
We have set out the content of this file note, and other linked documents, in as much detail as we can, as the accuracy of their content has recently become the subject of some contention by Mr Walton.
We note that the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry had concluded hearing live evidence on 20 July 1998 and was due to reconvene to hear final submissions from all the interested parties on 17 September 1998.
Where [N81’s group] appears, the group was actually named at the meeting, but we cannot identify it without creating a risk that N81 might be identified as a result.
FILE NOTE
N81
On Friday, 14th August, I had a meeting with N81 and DI Richard Walton. DI Walton is currently working with the Stephen Lawrence review team. N81 talked about the Lawrence enquiry from (N81’s group’s) perspective and DI Walton from his. It was a fascinating and valuable exchange of information concerning an issue which, according to DI Walton, continues to dominate the Commissioner’s agenda on a daily basis.
DI Walton thanked N81 for N81’s invaluable reporting on the subject in recent months. An in-depth discussion enabled him to increase his understanding of the Lawrences’ relationship with the various campaigning groups like [N81’s group] – this, he said, would be of great value as he continued to prepare a draft submission to the Inquiry on behalf of the Commissioner. [N81’s group’s] future plans were also discussed at some length.
DI Walton explained a lot of the behind-the-scenes politics involving the Home Office. It emerged that there is great sensitivity around the Lawrence issue with both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister extremely concerned that the Metropolitan Police could end up with its credibility – in the eyes of London’s black community – completely undermined.
DI Walton explained the three main areas that his team is addressing:
1. How to respond to the charge of institutionalised racism
Here the team seems likely to admit the essence of the charge. What is exercising their minds is merely the terminology to use. There is a preference for phrases like ‘unconscious racism’ and ‘a lack of understanding of black culture’. The team realises that, however expressed, such a frank admission of failure will shock many serving police officers who have, thus far, been fed a much more upbeat response to the enquiry in The Job.
2. How to handle the second stage of the Public Enquiry
DI Walton explained that the Commissioner plans to stage a series of public forums in the months ahead at which he will attend personally and set out the Met’s position. One proposed venue was XXXX and N81 was able to advise DI Walton of the vulnerability that such a meeting would have to disruption from [N81’s group] and local black youth.
As regards the second stage itself, there continued to be daily discussions within DI Walton’s office as to the best tactics to adopt. The question of the Commissioner’s resignation, and that of his assistant Ian Johnston, is regularly addressed.
3. How to regain the confidence of the black community
Commander Grieve is now in charge of post Lawrence black community relations and is clearly hoping to be able to draw a line under the affair and work towards a more positive relationship.
N81 was able to highlight the enormity of this task as regards sections of the black community... (N81) was also able to provide DI Walton with some specific and positive information as regards those community groups who might be prepared to build bridges.
DI Walton also explained how the Home Office was very sensitive about the wider implications of the Lawrence case, in particular the potential for rioting or disorder by sections of the black community in the wake of an irretrievable loss of confidence in the police. Allied to this was a concern about the damaging effects of sustained political pressure from hard-left and anti-police elements.
DI Lambert,
18.8.98
(circ. copy N127/N52/N129 - All SDS Sgts)
An excellent meeting and a good example of the strides N81 has made over the last 12 months. N58 (SDS DCI)


SDS Intelligence Update, September 1998
This was found within a batch of SDS operational strategy reports from 1998/1999.
It appears that this update was prepared by SDS Detective Chief Inspector N58 quite early in September 1998 and its content included:
“EXTREMIST INVOLVEMENT IN THE STEPHEN LAWRENCE CAMPAIGN
“Over the last six months source N81 has reported comprehensively on the persistent and largely successful attempts by [N81’s group] to gain influence within the Stephen Lawrence campaign... [N81’s group] have managed to broaden the agenda within the campaign group...
While the Lawrence family have sought to prevent extremist activists from taking over the campaign, N81’s reporting reveals the extent to which groups like [N81’s group] have gained a significant foothold within the ad hoc organising group...
“In addition to providing valuable public order intelligence for C Squad, N81’s unique insight into the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Lawrence campaign has also proved invaluable to A/DI Walton who is currently attached to the Stephen Lawrence review team. At a recent SDS meeting N81 was able to give A/DI Walton a first-hand briefing on the case and offer some sound advice (e.g. that the Commissioner would be ill-advised to attend a public forum at XXXX as provisionally planned). In terms of the Metropolitan Police’s long-term strategy of seeking to rebuild damaged relations with the black community, N81 was able to comment authoritatively on the enormity of the task generally and in [N81’s] own local area...
“At the time of preparing this paper N81 is reporting another significant breakthrough... on Weds evening 2 September...
“Source protection dictates that SDS assistance to the Stephen Lawrence Review team should continue to be restricted to the current channels as outlined above: regular reporting to C Squad and additional discreet briefings to A/DI Walton when necessary.”


Notes made by Special Branch Operations Commander Colin Black in September 1998
Opening file note made by Commander Black dated 14 September 1998:
“CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN CO24 AND MPSB
“This file is opened to record MPSB policy relating to the provision of intelligence and information to CO24 by Special Branch and to hold copies of all intelligence reports and briefing notes so provided. It is clearly in the interests of the later assessment of the service offered by the Branch that such items are held in one place. It may be that, in due course, information relating to race crime of interest to this Branch will be provided by CO24 to us. It too should be placed on this file.
“As of this date, all correspondence for CO24 will pass via D/Supt C Squad to DS McDowell (CO24) or, in his absence, DAC Grieve. CO24 undertake to handle such documents in accordance with handling guidelines for protectively marked material.
“1. Commander SB to see
“2. Sec. Commander to see
“3. D/Supt to see
“4. Return file to Ops Cmdr.
“SB OPS
14.9.98”
Note made on a minute sheet by Special Branch Operations Commander Colin Black dated 14 September 1998
“Detective Superintendent S
“Thank you. These papers confirm that SDS is, as usual, well positioned at the focal crisis points of policing in London. I am aware that [DI Walton] of CO24 receives ad hoc off-therecord briefings from SDS. I have reiterated to him that it is essential that knowledge of the operation goes no further. I would not wish him to receive anything on paper. I have established a correspondence route to DAC GRIEVE via DS MCDOWELL, formerly of SO12, and opened an SP file for copy correspondence with CO24. It will, of course, fall to C Squad to provide the bulk of that material. They will undoubtedly consult SDS as appropriate.
“... Ops 14/09/1998”


Further file note prepared by Special Branch Operations Commander Colin Black dated 26 September 1998
“If at all possible, I would wish to see a flow of suitable material to DS McDowell, both tactical intelligence around the Lawrence enquiry and broader work on race crime. Please carry forward.
“SB OPS
26.9.98”
The correspondence file that was opened by Commander Black on 14 September 1998 still exists, and it includes retained notes and briefings sent to CO24, apparently from 28 September 1998 onwards. The majority of the correspondence consists of threat assessments relating to possible public order issues. These were around the London-based venues where Part Two of the Inquiry was considering holding hearings within the MPS area. Such briefings fitted the description given in Commander Black’s note on 26 September 1998, which suggested: “suitable material to DS McDowell, both tactical intelligence around the Lawrence enquiry and broader work on race crime”. Included within this retained correspondence was what we have summarised above as reports that touched on personal details regarding the Lawrence family emanating from N81’s reporting.

Additional Undercover Research resources

External resources

Notes

  1. Mark Ellison, The Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, UK Government, 6 March 2014, Vol. 1, p.227-228