These are devastating findings for London's police, a terrible blow on top of dishonesty over Plebgate and the killing of the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson
The inquiry by Sir William Macpherson into the murder of Stephen Lawrence felt, when it reported in 1999, like a turning point for the Metropolitan Police Service. Now it is clear it was nothing of the sort.
It was, at least for some officers, a crude but for nearly 15 years an effective exercise in damage limitation.
It involved the destruction or disappearance of evidence that might have pointed to corrupt activity. There were attempts to smear the Lawrence family, undercover police were sent in to befriend and then to spy on them and their supporters and at least one officer then met the colleague preparing evidence for Macpherson.
The spying was going on literally under the judge's nose. As the home secretary Theresa May said, announcing a public inquiry into the use of undercover police to the House of Commons, the findings of the independent inquiry led by the QC Mark Ellison were "deeply troubling".
Former home secretary Jack Straw called it the most shocking statement he had heard in the Commons.
And they did not stop there. The Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry into corruption in 2006 was misled. As late as 2012, the MPS was still denying any evidence of corruption.
These are devastating findings for London's police, a terrible blow on top of dishonesty over Plebgate and the killing of the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson.
It is not over. Hours after Mrs May's well-judged appearance in the Commons, Chief Constable Mike Creedon – the man in charge of the inquiry into the wider use of undercover police that was first revealed by Guardian reporters Rob Evans and Paul Lewis – delivered a progress report that warned of potential criminal charges to come against undercover officers who had had sexual relationships with people on whom they were tasked with snooping.
This inquiry has another year to run. At the very least, the two inquiries will make uncomfortable reading for the Met's chief constable at the time, Paul Condon, and his home secretary, Michael Howard.
The Lawrence family, who rightly felt even during Macpherson's inquiry that the police were being less than honest, have now been vindicated.
It is truly appalling that they have had to wait so long and that now, since much evidence has been lost or shredded, they must accept that they are unlikely ever to have the full truth.
The experience that they have endured is a wretched indictment of some officers and of the leadership of the capital's police. And there is more to come.
The inquiry into the murder of the private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987 may now be told of links with allegations of corruption in the Lawrence murder investigation.
And families of the Hillsborough victims have been warned that they too may have been spied on by undercover officers. Restoring confidence in policing will be a long haul.
Mrs May clearly recognises this. Her immediate proposals, like a new crime of police corruption, may be partly window dressing, but much tighter control of undercover operations is clearly essential.
The promise of a new judge-led public inquiry is welcome – as long as it embraces the lessons of Macpherson.
That means it must be robustly independent both of police and the Home Office. But the real lesson of Macpherson is that inquiries on their own are not enough.
Many of the wider promises made in its aftermath about, for example, the way stop and search powers are used, or the recruitment and promotion of black and minority ethnic officers, were quickly abandoned. Change has to take place at a much more fundamental level.
The home secretary is in the middle of a bold programme of reform that may be a big part of the long-term answer.
A more explicit and developed idea of an ethos of policing is important, and so is linking pay to performance, and trying to bring fresh thinking in through senior recruitment from outside the service.
Equally important is the strengthened IPCC, which must now prove itself a robust invigilator. These tragedies have indeed cast a long shadow.
It's a sad day when the newly appointed lord chief justice feels that we need to investigate the possibility of a cut-rate (and, it seems, third rate) criminal justice system because we can no longer afford to run the existing one (Report, 4 March). This echoes the nonsense spouted by Chris Grayling about the need to cut lawyers' fees in the crown court.
The criminal justice system suffers from the most appalling and endemic inefficiency. In the last calendar year I was involved in cases of murder where a total of 24 working days were wasted. In no case was the conduct of counsel for either the defence or prosecution to blame. Judges go on courses and to meetings in court time; the arrangements for allocating judges to cases well in advance are farcical; the privatised organisations charged with bringing prisoners to court on time fail repeatedly to do so and are rarely, if ever, penalised; jurors arrive late or not at all; the CPS can barely cope with the service and disclosure of documents; there is a culture of unpunctuality. Grayling, who has repeatedly rejected offers to discuss all this with the Criminal Bar Association, thinks he can solve the problems besetting the system by cutting the pay of the only people still working flat out to keep it alive.
Now the lord chief justice talks about restricting jury trial in fraud cases and creating a new tier of criminal court to sit without a jury at all. None of this provides a remedy for the present mess. If we simply cut out the shocking levels of waste, we can run a proper justice system, with juries and within budget. Someone needs to get a grip, not tear down the whole edifice.
Nigel Rumfitt QC
• The scales of justice, according to ex-Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain, have "comfort letters" sent to ex-terrorists on one side (Comment, 27 February), balanced against an amnesty for all soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday massacre on the other. Personally, I do not recognise that as justice on either side.
Matthew Goodwin's and Robert Ford's insightful analysis of male working-class support for Nigel Farage (Comment, 6 March) left out two key considerations. First, the feeling of being left behind is now engulfing growing sections of the middle class and their children; and second, the need to consider what change of policy direction could tackle this sense of personal and community insecurity. Key to addressing these problems is not just to reject job-killing austerity. A sense of being left behind is also a factor in manufacturing and service jobs being relocated to countries with lower taxes and wages. House prices are being yanked out of people's reach, partly by the uncontrolled flow of foreign capital into empty luxury properties or buy-to-let in the name of foreign investment. Finally, the way UK population growth, both recent and projected, will make it so much more difficult to deal with social, food and energy shortfalls must be faced.
What should change is the acceptance of open borders to the flow of goods, services and money. In Europe that also applies to open borders to the flow of people. All polls show most people in the UK want a reduction in population growth and present levels of immigration. A sensible desire given the incredible official projection that the numbers living in the UK will increase by 10 million over the next 25 years, and that around 60% of this is expected to come from immigration and the children of migrants. The only way to see off the extreme right here and in Europe is for the politically active to provide a programme to protect and rebuild domestic economies to provide a secure future for all, not just the very wealthy 1%.
East Twickenham, Middlesex
• The established political parties have reasons to fear Ukip, but they are not those quoted by Goodwin and Ford. Despite winning a 22% share of the national vote at last year's local elections, trumping the 17% achieved at the 2009 Euro election, these impressive results mask the fact that they were achieved on 35% turnouts, which is now customary at mid-term elections. Sections of the electorate have previously flirted briefly with non-mainstream parties such as the National Front, SDP, Greens and BNP, but the historical precedents are not encouraging for Ukip. Moreover, voters expect their elected representatives to be professional, moderate and competent.
Ukip is handicapped by its having no more than three or four spokespersons capable of conducting media interviews and by the constant flow of adverse publicity which suggests political values of intolerance and bigotry. The threat posed to the three main parties by Ukip is psychological, not electoral. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have yet shown the slightest inclination to engage with the party. Ukip will implode when its philosophy is challenged, its arguments debunked and its leader given enough rope that his fag sets fire to it.
• While Goodwin and Ford are right to warn that Ukip could threaten Labour, it is a simplification to accuse the Blair government of not showing "much interest in left-behind voters". Labour established the minimum wage, lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, improved social housing, invested heavily in Sure Start, schools and the NHS and promoted concessionary travel for pensioners. If their record on these issues could be criticised, it was the failure to make enough of these achievements. Doing good by stealth is not a recipe for political success.
Labour, House of Lords