Killers may have to move prisons for their own safety
Dobson and Norris begin sentences in top-security Belmarsh jail just miles from murder scene
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Thursday 05 January 2012
Gary Dobson and David Norris may be moved to a different prison because of their vulnerability to attack following their sentencing yesterday to a combined total of 29 years' imprisonment for the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
The two men are being held at Belmarsh top-security prison in south-east London, less than three miles from Eltham, where the killing took place. But it is understood the prison authorities are considering moving the pair in the wake of their convictions to protect them from reprisals.
Norris was badly beaten in September 2010 at Belmarsh while being held on remand for the Lawrence murder. He suffered broken ribs and damage to his hearing in an altercation with three ethnic minority prisoners who complained that Norris was trying to throw his weight around. It is likely the pair will be moved to a different prison or transferred to a segregated wing where vulnerable prisoners, including paedophiles, are housed.
The two men were told by Mr Justice Treacy at the Old Bailey yesterday that their "terrible and evil" crime was carried out for no other reason than racial hatred as a group of white youths shouted abuse and surrounded Stephen near a bus stop in Eltham on 22 April 1993. The judge told the court, where Dobson and Norris were found guilty of murder on Tuesday, that he could not be sure if either of them wielded the knife used to inflict the two fatal wounds – between 12 and 13cm in depth – on their victim.
But the judge, addressing both killers as they stood in the dock, said they were just as culpable for the murder as whoever had carried the weapon, adding: "Neither of you has shown the slightest regret or remorse."
Dobson, 36, was told he must serve a minimum of 15 years and two months and Norris, 35, will serve 14 years and three months. As the two men were taken down, Dobson's father, Steven, shouted: "Shame on all of you." The court was told that if their crime had been committed by an adult in modern times, each killer would serve a life sentence with a minimum of around 30 years. But because the two men were under 18 at the time of Stephen's killing, and because of legislation in force at the time, the sentence was lower.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Treacy called the killing of Stephen Lawrence "a terrible and evil crime", adding that it was a "murder which scarred the conscience of the nation".
The judge told the pair: "A totally innocent 18-year-old youth on the threshold of a promising life was brutally cut down in the street in front of eyewitnesses by a racist, thuggish gang.
"You were both members of that gang. I have no doubt at all that you fully subscribed to its views and attitudes." The evidence in the trial could not prove who wielded the knife, but he said that whoever used it had done so with Dobson and Norris's "knowledge and approval".
Doreen Lawrence, Stephen's mother, said she understood that the law's provisions on juvenile sentencing meant that her son's killers would serve less time in prison than if they had been adults. Speaking outside court, Mrs Lawrence said: "The sentences that happened may be quite low, but at the same time the judge's hands were tied. And for that, as much as he can do, I am very grateful."
The judge praised police, prosecutors and forensic scientists for putting together a successful case after the Metropolitan Police was "shamed and humbled" by the 1999 Macpherson inquiry into the killing. Addressing the senior police investigator DCI Clive Driscoll, the judge said: "Through you, I commend them all. At least a measure of justice has been achieved at last."
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