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Stephen Lawrence: Justice Served, But It’s Not Over Yet

January 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.

Stephen Lawrence

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.

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9 comments

  1. London exhaled today….
    All respect for the dignified way the family and not forgetting Dwayne Roberts…Stephens friend who was with him that night have conducted themselves over the years in the face of such adversity…

    I just pray that these two aren’t released on some kind of appeal or technicality.
    Especially considering the minute amount of evidence that finally nailed them.

    As for the others….we can only hope one of these two squeals… Reports coming in tonite that there is new ‘evidence’ coming out from jail.

    Also how much has really changed in the community? Reports of idiots hurling abuse at supporters at the memorial yesterday meaning there is a 24hr police guard on top of the CCTV camera already there. And then there is this new case of Anuj Bidve who was shot for apparently being Indian. The shooter calls himself Psycho.

    Great Britain are we?


    • I didn’t mention the appalling shooting of Anuj Bidve on boxing day, but I’m glad you did. Just a short explanation for readers who don’t know about this case.

      Anuj Bidve was a young man from India studying at Lancaster University. He was visiting Salford in Manchester for the Christmas period. He was walking on the streets at around 1.30am with some friends when he was shot in the head at point blank range. He had been in this country for four months. The person who did it was caught quickly (a legacy of Stephen Lawrence perhaps?). He was a young man of around 20. When he appeared in court he called himself ‘psycho’.

      Makes a mother proud, doesn’t it? Makes us proud to be British, yes?


  2. I hadn’t heard of this case before, Pie. I didn’t realize you wrote about crime stories. There are all sorts of cultural injustice overtones to it, aren’t there?


    • If there’s a crime story big enough and I get my act together to write about it before the moment passes, then it’ll feature here.

      The injustices are numerous and there’s still a long way to go, but the death of Stephen Lawrence did change and shift some things, so we must try and concentrate on that, with a view to making sure we don’t take our eye off the ball. Because these changes are not only a benefit to ethnic minorities, the LBGT (Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Gay, Transgender) community and others who are at the receiving end of hate crimes because they offend someone’s eyes: they’re a benefit to all of us.

      That Lawrence boy had a hell of a mission.


  3. How sad that it has taken so long to get it right on his behalf.


    • It is sad, and it’s a disgrace. Any future events of this nature will be dealt with more quickly and with respect. There are too many people watching now, so if this happens again, there will be people to answer to. Finding something to nail the rest of them, so they can also feel the cold finger of lady justice will be a satisfying end to this sorry story. Hopefully it won’t take another 18 years.


  4. I caught just the tail end of this story on the radio, so I’m glad you wrote about it. I so admire his parents and supporters for not giving up even though it took so long.


    • Many people have been in awe of the parents. To have that level of tenacity in the face of the obstacles put before them and the length of time passing is remarkable.

      I didn’t mention this in the original post, but they buried Stephen in Jamaica where his family originates, because they feared his grave would’ve been desecrated. The regular vandalism visited upon the memorial plaque placed at the site where he was killed, sadly proves they were right to do so.


  5. The many times those accused walked “free” with their brazen faces in triumph was always so upsetting. I suppose we should be grateful that justice is eventually prevailing, as you say – two down, three to go, but I do hope the world gets to hear the voice of Doreen’s dignified tenacity.



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