Lawrence inquiry to be held in public

`An appeal will be made for people to provide evidence'
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The inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence will be held in public in a building close to where the black teenager was stabbed to death, it was announced yesterday.

An appeal will be made for people to come forward with evidence. The inquiry, as well as examining the circumstances surrounding the killing, will also have wide-ranging implications for how the police and courts deal with racially motivated crime. Sir William Mac- pherson of Cluny, the judge heading the inquiry, said yesterday that he intended proceed- ings to be "as open as possible".

He said public hearings would be held later this year and an appeal would be made for people to come forward. The judge, formerly a High Court judge of the Queen's Bench, was appointed by the Home Secretary Jack Straw to lead the inquiry last week. The announcement followed a meeting between Mr Straw and the Lawrence family.

The inquiry will be given powers last used in Lord Scarman's 1981 inquiry into the Brixton riots. It will examine the events surrounding the stabbing of the 18-year-old student at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993.

Sir William met his fellow inquiry members for the first time at the Home Office in London, yesterday. He shook the hand of Tom Cook, the former Deputy Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, the Rt Rev John Sentamu, Bishop of Stepney, and Dr Richard Stone, chairman of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality.

Sir William said in a statement: "We will be holding public hearings later this year and we would like them to take place in Greenwich. A public appeal will be made for people to come forward with evidence. Following that appeal, decisions will be made about who will be called before the inquiry."

The Police Complaints Authority is currently investigating complaints made by the Law-rence family about the Metropolitan Police's handling of the case. They are expected to complete their findings by October. Fuller details of their report will be published - this has only happened on four previous occasions - although witness state- ments will be kept secret.

Sir William's inquiry will only begin after the authority's report has been completed. The inquiry has been given power to summon any person or obtain any documents. Refusal to testify would be contempt of court and could lead to imprisonment.

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