Met chief Hogan-Howe defends Lawrence shredding probe

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Media captionSir Bernard Hogan-Howe was previously questioned by MPs about the shredding of documents

Twenty people have been interviewed about the shredding of documents relating to possible police corruption, the Metropolitan Police chief has said.

But Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said previous Met commissioners had not been spoken to and it was right "to establish the facts" before they were.

Destruction of files was raised by the Mark Ellison QC in his review of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.

Sir Bernard told LBC Radio four bin bags of material were shredded in 2001.

Mr Ellison's report, published last month, found evidence of "mass shredding" of files relating to Operation Othona - a top-secret anti-corruption initiative within the Met.

It also stated that an undercover officer had spied on the Lawrence family, and did not rule out that corruption may have compromised the investigation.

'Trying to conspire'

Sir Bernard was not Met Commissioner at the time of the Stephen Lawrence murder, or the shredding, but has set up an inquiry into what happened.

Asked whether he had contacted Lord Stevens - who was commissioner between 2000 and 2005 - or Sir Ian Blair - who was in charge between 2005 and 2008 - he told LBC: "The first thing is to establish the facts about the original allegation and we are in the process of doing that.

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Image caption Mark Ellison's review found officers spied on Stephen Lawrence's family

"We have interviewed 20 witnesses. We've got far more clarity.

"At the point at which we need to talk to them I'm sure someone will."

Referring to his questioning last month by the Home Affairs Select Committee, Sir Bernard said: "Had I gone into that meeting and said I had phoned my predecessor and asked them what their view of the world is, they might say 'Were you trying to create a story? Were you trying to conspire?'

"Whichever way we go, there's a risk of a criticism. Until we've established the facts, I've got no intention of ringing them about this."

Home Secretary Theresa May announced a judge-led public inquiry into undercover policing following publication of Mr Ellison's report.

"Any one of my predecessors or I could be called as a witness [by that inquiry]. As a witness to something, it is quite proper that we do that in a proper way," the commissioner said.

"We are not going to rush it. We were criticised in the Mark Ellison review for rushing an inquiry and not discovering material that we should have, so I intend to do it properly and I intend to do it carefully."

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