On 22 April 2013, senior representatives of the British state joined the Lawrence family in marking the 20th anniversary of the murder of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence by white racists. Leaders of the three main political parties and the Mayor of London attended a memorial service at St Martin in the Fields, near Trafalgar Square, to pay tribute to Stephen and to acknowledge ‘the debt the country owes to the Lawrence family for refusing to give up, ensuring those who were guilty of Stephen’s murder were brought to justice’.
Beguiling as some might have found it, there is something both fascinating and deeply disturbing about that memorial, the presence at it of those leaders of state and above all, about the statements they made.
In 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were finally convicted of Stephen’s murder after repeated failures by the Metropolitan Police that arose from corruption, incompetence and what the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry led by retired judge, Sir William Macpherson called ‘institutional racism’. Indeed, the convictions were possible only because in 2005 the ‘double jeopardy’ law that had existed for 800 years was changed to allow a suspect to be tried again for the same offence if there was “new, compelling, reliable and substantial evidence”, which had not been previously available. Three suspects Gary Dobson, Neil Acourt and Luke Knight, had been acquitted following a private prosecution brought by Stephen’s parents in 1996. David Norris had not been prosecuted before. The Lawrence family is still hopeful that sooner rather than later they will see all of Stephen’s murderers behind bars. Read the rest of this entry →