Lawrence race lessons 'ignored'

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The Independent Online
MEMBERS OF Parliament plan to use the first full House of Commons debate on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry today to highlight other cases that they say show the racist culture of the police service.

It will be the MPs' first opportunity to discuss the report by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny on the police investigation of Stephen's murder. The report, published a month ago, found institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police and made 70 recommendations for reform.

The debate follows the launch yesterday of the National Civil Rights Movement, a campaigning and support group for victims of racial injustice. Stephen's father, Neville Lawrence, is a founder, as is Imran Khan, the Lawrence family's solicitor.

The decision to launch thegroup reflects both a growing recognition that the Lawrence debacle was not a one-off, and a desire to maintain the momentum for change at a political level.

Bernie Grant, Labour MP for Tottenham, who hopes to speak in today's debate, plans to refer to the case of Roger Sylvester, a young black man who died in January while being restrained by police. Mr Grant said yesterday that the police's handling of the affair illustrated problems similar to those identified by the Lawrence inquiry. "What we see is the same pattern repeated time after time, with senior officers refusing to take responsibility," he said.

Other cases will be publicly aired for the first time. Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, hopes to draw attention to an incident which he says shows that the lessons of Stephen Lawrence's murder have not been learnt. It concerns Chatan Makan, a young Asian man, and two friends, who were allegedly attacked without provocation by two white men at a pub in Leicester earlier this month.

During the altercation, Mr Makan and his friends were ordered to leave the pub. They decided to wait outside for the police, who had been called.

One of them, Rajesh Gorania, was covered in blood. But when officers arrived, they allegedly ignored the three men and took statements only from the people inside. The police then arrested Mr Gorania. At the police station, his friends were arrested, kept in cells overnight and charged. Mr Gorania was later told by police that they would contact him about his allegations in relation to the two white assailants. Three weeks later, he has heard nothing.

The Commons will debate an action plan, announced by JackStraw, the Home Secretary, last week, for implementing most of Sir William's recommendations.