Lawrence lawyers `took wrong route'

IT WAS, without a doubt, one of the cruellest moments in the Lawrence family's long campaign for justice.

Three men, who they believed to be the killers of their son Stephen, walked out of the dock at the Old Bailey, unpunished and now unpunishable. Doreen Lawrence collapsed in tears. Neville Lawrence froze, unable to believe his eyes.

The couple had pinned their hopes on the trial at the Old Bailey in April 1996. Two years earlier, with the backing of their legal team, solicitor Imran Khan and eminent QC Michael Mansfield, they launched a private prosecution of the men widely regarded as the prime murder suspects.

It was the only route that remained open, they believed, after the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued its case.

Not everyone agreed. Howard Youngerwood, the senior CPS lawyer who took the decision to drop the charges, was horrified.

He told Mr Khan that he was bound to fail because of the unreliability of the identification evidence of Duwayne Brooks, Stephen's friend, and begged him not to proceed.

It would have been far better, said Mr Youngerwood, to wait for new evidence to emerge so that the CPS prosecution could be reactivated. He told the public inquiry that when he discovered that the Lawrences planned to ignore his advice, "I was so desperate, I collapsed in the street".

Others observers questioned whether Mr Mansfield and Mr Khan - celebrated criminal defence lawyers, but with no experience of conducting a prosecution - had the necessary expertise to handle the case.

But the Metropolitan Police, who had reopened the murder investigation under an energetic detective superintendent, Bill Mellish, was happy to co-operate.

They gave the family a surveillance video that showed the suspects brandishing knives and fantasising about killing black people.

The Lawrences - who raised pounds 45,000 to finance the prosecution - received a further morale boost when Ian Johnston, the Metropolitan Police's Assistant Commissioner, attended the committal proceedings at Belmarsh Magistrates Court as a public display of support.

At Belmarsh, charges against two of the suspects - Jamie Acourt and David Norris, both 18, were dropped because of insufficient evidence. But Dobson, 18, Neil Acourt, 20, and Luke Knight, 18 - were sent for trial.

The case hinged on Mr Brooks, who had picked out the three defendants at identification parades. In legal argument, though, doubts were cast on his evidence, and the trial judge, Mr Justice Curtis, said Mr Brooks did not know whether he was "on his head or his heels".

With his evidence ruled inadmissible, Mr Mansfield had no option but to abandon the case, and the three were formally acquitted on the direction of the judge, who praised the Lawrences' "statesmanlike" conduct.

The video - which showed Neil Acourt waving a knife said to be similar to the one used to kill Stephen - was never shown to the jury. The private prosecution was a desperate measure by a family who had been let down by police and the prosecuting authorities.

But tragically, since it is a principle of English law that people cannot be tried twice for the same offence, its effect was to place the three men beyond the reach of justice. The case against the other two was so seriously undermined that the Lawrences will now probably never be granted their dearest wish: to see their son's murderers behind bars.

The QC: Michael Mansfield

Michael Mansfield, a vegetarian who enjoys cycling, takes to the upstairs room of his London home whenever he feels frustrated to bang a battered old drum kit.

One of the country's best-known lawyers, his clients have included the Angry Brigade, the Birmingham Six, the Bridgewater Three, Arthur Scargill and Patrick Nicholls, who served 23 years for a murder that never happened.

The son of Conservative-voting parents, his interest in the law started when his mother defended herself when she was wrongly fined pounds 10 for illegal parking.

After studying philosophy and history at Keele University, Mansfield, 57, taught at a polytechnic and studied for his Bar exams by a correspondence course. He failed land law three times before passing and became a QC in 1989.

The Solicitor: Imran Khan

Imran Khan not a solicitor new to controversy. After representing two Asian men accused of murdering the white schoolboy Richard Everitt, he received death threats.

He was also told by police he should not attend a demonstration in north London being held for the men, who had been convicted of murder and violent disorder.

"I can appreciate that people might be angry and frustrated, particularly those who have lost someone, but making threats to my life goes beyond reasonable behaviour," he said. He was at the demonstration.

Slim and charming, he often represents high-profile race-related cases.

Within days of Stephen Lawrence's murder, he was representing his parents, Doreen and Neville. With Michael Mansfield, he has worked beside them since.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Day In a Page

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state