Stephen Lawrence Day

Isabelle Parasram interviewing someone affected by knife crime

Isabelle Parasram interviewing someone affected by knife crime

On 22nd April 2020, we commemorate the life of Stephen Lawrence – a black British teenager who, in 1993, was killed in an unprovoked racist attack by a gang of white men.

Stephen had been waiting for a bus with his friend, Duwayne Brooks (who later went on to become a Lib Dem Councillor). Duwayne escaped unhurt, but Stephen died of his injuries.

Five suspects were initially arrested, but the charges were dropped, and a private prosecution by The Lawrence family of three of the suspects failed. At Stephen’s inquest, a verdict of unlawful killing ‘…in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five youths’ was delivered by Sir Montague Levine.

The day after this, The Daily Mail newspaper used its front page to name the five men it says killed Stephen Lawrence. It invited them to sue if they were wrong.

Five years after Stephen’s murder, Sir William Macpherson chaired a public Inquiry into the handling of the police investigation. It accused the Metropolitan Police of institutional racism and made 70 recommendations, many aimed at improving police attitudes to racism. The Macpherson Report has been called ‘…one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain’.

Since then only two of the suspects have been convicted (in 2012). They each received life sentences; however, no one else has been brought to justice for this heinous crime.
As a barrister, I’m more than aware of the impact that Stephen’s murder and the subsequent efforts of his family and their supporters have had on the criminal justice system and how we investigate and prosecute crime.

Stephen Lawrence Day is a day for social action, encouraging young people in particular to create the kind of community they want to live in. This approach complements our Lib Dem policy of taking a public health approach to dealing with knife crime.

So, as we remember Stephen and his parents, Doreen and Neville, who have fought tirelessly for justice, let’s use our influence as Lib Dems to end racism and violent crime.

* Isabelle Parasram is the Vice President of the Liberal Democrats.

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4 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Apr '20 - 3:34pm

    This murder was clearly racist. I do not often read the Mail, but they are known for having deep pockets and the alleged murderers did not take up their offer of a court case.
    Joint Enterprise is a controversial piece of law.
    I recall a case where four men in a car, jointly intent on a robbery, argued that only one of them shot a police officer and several Home Secretaries were involved in processing the case at later stages. When informed about a prospective release the Met police took their expected attitude and insisted on a special condition in the licence, not to visit London.

  • And of course Keir Starmer played a prominent role in supporting Doreen Lawrence to get two of the guilty ones into court in 2012.

  • Jonathan Hunt 25th Apr '20 - 8:06pm

    There were two victims of this racist murder. Obviously, Stephen who lost his life just for being black, And for being out at night in a part of south-east London where these racist thugs were allowed to practice their criminal bigotry.

    And less obviously, Duwayne. His life was shattered by treatment by the police, who suffered from the way institutional racism was practised, and many who continued to treat him not as a victim, but as their main suspect. There were also those corrupt officers in the pay of one of the murder’s notorious father.

    But the story of Duwayne’ s appalling treatment by many. including Doreen Lawrence requires more space than is available here. But it does include how badly he was treated by our party.

    OK, so he would not have had the experience to become London mayor. The excellent Caroline Pidgeon as leader would have. But Duwayne should have been our candidate, because we were not going to win.

    But it would have said so much to the BAME population of the capital about the Liberal Democrats and our support for the minority — close to becoming 50 per cent of the population. But we lot that opportunity four years ago when Sadique was elected.

    He should have been mayoral candidate in Lewisham, after excellent work as a ward councillor, and chair of the LibDEm police and crime on the Local govt Assn. . But once against racist attitudes overcame the Liberal ones. Which is why we still struggle to elect BAME MPs and win the votes of black voters which should our’s.

  • Phil Beesley 25th Apr '20 - 10:07pm

    I try to follow the news every day. It is something I have done for 40 years.

    Regarding investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, I observed that there were three reasons why his murderers were not prosecuted:
    * racism
    * ineptitude
    * corruption

    Stephen’s death was not sufficiently investigated because he was killed on the street. Just a black lad killed in a scuffle. That is the racist, dismissive element.

    Police officers did not follow up the murder immediately, so that’s ineptitude.

    Corrupt police officers, by chance, were involved with the murder by relationship to one of Stephen’s killers. They may or may not have influenced the murder inquiry.

    If I was running the Met police at that time, I’d have been delighted for the ‘institutionally racist’ announcement about London coppers.

    They weren’t useless, they weren’t corrupt, just part of a failed organisation.

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