Stephen Lawrence: Justice Served, But It’s Not Over YetJanuary 5, 2012
Eighteen years after an A-level student with ambitions to be an architect called Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a group of young men on the streets of Eltham, South London, because he had the temerity to come into this world with a black skin, two members of that group are now starting a life in jail.
I won’t go into great detail about the shameful early investigation, which enabled the five accused to walk away at the time, but I will say that this case has been a stain on London for a very long time and it seemed that maybe this would never be resolved and therefore the stain would remain. Then something happened. Thanks to new forensic evidence and amendments to the law of double jeopardy, Gary Dobson and David Norris found themselves up before the Old Bailey in November 2011. London was holding its breath while the seven-week trial was in session. When the guilty verdict came in and it was for murder, rather than manslaughter, London was ecstatic. The sentence they both received, 15 and 14 years respectively, due to the fact they were juveniles at the time of the crime, is not long enough for many of us. But it’s the full minimum term of a life sentence they’ll be serving before they’re even considered for parole, so it’s certainly better than some of the sillier sentences passed down over the years, though as some people pointed out, they’d had got 20 years plus for robbing a bank.
The death of Stephen has not been in vain. The legacy has been manifold. The McPherson report of 1999, which looked at the role of the police in the investigation, levelled the charge of “Institutional racism”, among other serious failings, leading to a big shake-up in police procedures. The Stephen Lawrence Foundation was set up by the family so young people could be helped to attain the dreams he was so cruelly denied. The Stephen Lawrence Prize is awarded by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) to encourage fresh talent with smaller construction budgets.
For those tenacious parents, the extraordinary Doreen and dignified Neville, this is only a partial victory and there will be no true rest for them until the others are caught, brought to trial and convicted. It looks like the police are getting their act together this time by pursuing them in the way they should’ve done back in 1993. The three, maybe four people who are currently living free must be properly shitting themselves this week.
Two down, three to go.