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Scotland Yard says it will support a public inquiry into claims that undercover officers hunted for information to smear the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.
But the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe has warned that the process could be lengthy and inconclusive.
Stephen's father Neville has demanded a judge-led inquiry into suggestions of a smear campaign, dismissing as "completely unsatisfactory" Home Secretary Theresa May's announcement that they would be examined by two continuing inquiries.
Speaking to Heart, Sir Bernard said: "If you do have a public inquiry, it can take a long time and it's not always conclusive at the end of it. Secondly, if there is more wrongdoing discovered, it still has to come back to the police or to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) to investigate and prosecute.
"A public inquiry can decide who did what, but if you want to get into a criminal prosecution or a misconduct process, it still has to fall back to the police. You might end up having two parallel things.
"I'm content that the investigation has to continue to establish the facts, and if the Government or Parliament decides that it would prefer a public inquiry, then of course we would support that."
Former officer Peter Francis has said he was told to dig up "dirt" on Neville and Doreen Lawrence shortly after 18-year-old architecture student Stephen was killed in an unprovoked racist attack at a bus stop in Eltham south-east London in April 1993.
Mr Francis said he was also asked to target Stephen's friend, Duwayne Brooks, who witnessed the murder, and other campaigners angry at the failure to bring his killers to justice.
Prime Minister David Cameron described the allegations as "horrific" and vowed to "get the full truth out".