The justice system is racist, says mother

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The mother of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence broke down in court yesterday as she attacked a "racist" judicial system which had allowed her son's killers to cheat justice.

Speaking at the re-opened inquest into his death, at Southwark Coroner's Court in south-east London, Doreen Lawrence described the promising 18-year-old A-level student as "very friendly", "a quiet person" who was "loved by everyone".

But Mrs Lawrence, who saw three white men formally acquitted of her son's street stabbing murder after a private prosecution she brought folded last year, grew more angry as she added: "My son was murdered nearly four years ago. His killers are still walking the street."

She told the coroner, Sir Montague Levine: "When my son was murdered, the police saw my son as a criminal belonging to a gang. My son was stereotyped by the police. He was black, then he must be a criminal and they set about to investigate him and us.

"Their investigation lasted two weeks, that allowed vital evidence to be lost. My son's crime was that he was walking down the road looking out for a bus that would take him home. Our crime was living in a country where the justice system supports racist murders against innocent people. The value that this white racist country puts on black lives is evident to see since the killing of my son.

"In my opinion what happened in the crown court was staged, meaning it was decided long before we entered the courtroom what would happen, that the judge would not allow the evidence to be presented to the jury."

Mrs Lawrence's son was stabbed as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south- east London, in April 1993. The family's private prosecution - only the fourth to be brought in 150 years - came after the Crown Prosecution Service abandoned the case against two young men in July, 1993, because it believed there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

Mrs Lawrence told the court she and her husband, Neville, searched for their son after a neighbour told them he had seen the attack. After failing to find him, the couple drove to the local hospital where staff refused to let them see him.

He died at 11.37pm - some 40 minutes after their arrival - of a haemorrhage due to stab wounds to the chest and arm.

Mrs Lawrence claimed police officers at the hospital failed to talk to the couple until the next morning. "No one told us anything at that stage," she said and accused officers of being "very patronising" towards her and dismissive of her information.

She said that when she firstvisited the police station, she tried to present an officer with a list of names of possible people involved. "He folded the paper and rolled it into a ball in his hand. I asked him if he was going to put it in a bin. At the time they were not taking my son's death as seriously as they should have done."

The coroner told the jury that the teenager had left a 150-yard trail of blood before collapsing unconscious and lost "an awful lot of blood" as he tried to flee.

The hearing continues.