Private action possible in race murder case

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The Independent Online
THE FAMILY of Stephen Lawrence, the 18-year-old black sixth-former who was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths, may bring a private prosecution against suspects in the case after the Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

Yesterday the family appealed to Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to intervene to ensure that Stephen's murderers were brought to justice.

On 22 April last year Stephen, who was studying A-level design in the hope of becoming an architect, was surrounded at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, by white youths who subjected him to a stream of racial abuse before stabbing him several times and leaving him to bleed to death.

Two teenagers, aged 16 and 17, were later charged with his murder but subsequently released after the CPS decided there was insufficient evidence. The inquest into Stephen's death in December was adjourned after Michael Mansfield QC, representing Stephen's family, claimed to have unearthed 'dramatic new evidence' including information identifying three new suspects.

The police made extensive further inquiries and submitted a further report to the CPS, but yesterday the CPS said: 'Despite their painstaking and thorough investigation . . . we concluded that on the basis of the information available there is insufficient evidence to take action against any individual.'

Doreen Lawrence, Stephen's mother, said yesterday that she was 'angered' by the CPS decision, 'but neither my family nor I are surprised by it since we have believed for a long time that the police have failed to carry out a proper and thorough investigation into Stephen's murder'.

She said they had asked the police to make a fresh appeal, highlighting the racist aspects of the murder and raising the reward - pounds 5,000 - for information leading to the arrest and charge of Stephen's killers, but had been ignored.

Det Supt Brian Weeden, who is leading the police inquiry, said: 'We have a great deal of sympathy with the family and share their frustration this case has not yet been brought to a successful conclusion.'

Imran Khan, solictor for the Lawrence family, said: 'The family want to see the murderers prosecuted and the options now open to them are limited. The most likely option is a private prosecution.'

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