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i Editor's Letter: Guard against prejudice and complacency

 

The murder of Stephen Lawrence is an important case in the history of British justice. It's not just the fact that 18 years has elapsed between crime and conviction – which alone would make it noteworthy.

It has also changed the way our police work, the way we treat victims of crime, and it has engendered a much tougher attitude to racism, both in public and in private, since that fateful night in 1993 when Stephen – a much-loved son and promising student – was stabbed to death at a bus stop in south London.

Not entirely, of course. In the same way that the convictions of David Norris and Gary Dobson for murder do not – unfortunately – draw a nice neat line under the case, the ramifications of the Lawrence case will continue to echo through British society.

The 1999 Macpherson report, commissioned following allegations of racism and incompetence against the team leading the Lawrence investigation, made a total of 70 recommendations.

In 2009, the Select Committee for Home Affairs revisited these and found that, while there had been some progress in tackling racism and discrimination, there was still evidence that the police service continues to fail ethnic minorities.

Speaking after the verdict yesterday, Stephen's mother, Doreen Lawrence, thanked jurors for finding Gary Dobson and David Norris guilty but said it was not a cause for celebration.

"Had the police done their job properly," she said, "I would have spent the last 18 years grieving for my son, rather than fighting to get his killers to court."

Yesterday's verdict will not bring her son back. But it may remind us all to be on our guard against prejudice and complacency.

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