Stephen Lawrence – 30 years on

    Stephen Lawrence – 30 years on

    For those of us of a certain age the name Stephen Lawrence resonates as the tragic victim of a racist attack, which ended the life of the 18 year old; an event which, 30 years on, still has a wide reaching impact.

    And Stephen has become a force for good.

    While waiting for a bus in Well Hall Road, the talented sixth form student and budding architect was murdered, on 22nd April 1993, by five, maybe six, thugs in a terrible act which prompted stark changes of attitudes on racism in the UK, as well as questions for the London Metropolitan Police. The case also led to the partial revocation of the principal of double jeopardy, whereby a suspect can’t be tried twice for the same crime. But the image of the sneering racists triumphantly leaving court was one of the most sickening sights we saw in the 1990s, and the murder conviction of two of the gang in 2012 didn’t go near to putting that right.

    Stephen Lawrence Day, the 22nd April each year, is a chance for people and communities to honour the life of Stephen and take his inspiration to stand up to racism and work towards a better future for the next generation. And the Stephen Lawrence Foundation exists to promote a more inclusive society for marginalised young people in the UK. The Foundation works in schools, communities and workplaces to support young people and help them realize their dreams and their potential, in society and in their chosen career.

    Stephen himself was a talented student, particularly in mathematics and art and the combination of those two subjects would have been the perfect gateway to a career in architecture, but his dream was stolen, and his life taken, by people who didn’t know him and who he didn’t know.

    Totally senseless.

    After the initial police investigation five suspects were arrested and tried but not convicted and a public inquiry into the police handling of the case was held five years later. The outcome of that inquiry, ‘the Macpherson Report’ led to profound changes in the way racism was viewed and the way policing in the capital began to evolve.

    But progress is slow and the culture of the London Met is still regularly being called into question with allegations of sexism and racism a depressingly regular occurrence; and the recent Casey report denounced the force as a broken institution, suffering from a collapse in public confidence – particularly among black people; only 50 per cent of Londoners expressed confidence in the force, many blaming the shortcomings on past leadership.

    It comes as little surprise that the detective securing two convictions, who was investigating the possibility of a sixth attacker in the murder of Stephen, was told to retire by the Met, leaving his lines of enquiry unfinished.

    Stephen’s mum, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, says that black people are still not seen as deserving justice, while police officers are able to act with near impunity: “I don’t know how many more inquiries and how many reviews you need to have to say the same thing and still no changes,” she said. “Officers are able to be as brutal as they want, and nobody holds them to account. Within the black community, how we’re treated, how crime’s investigated, we’re never seen as a group of people that should have justice. So everything that we’ve had, we’ve had to fight for – and continue to fight.”

    In the name, and in the memory, of Stephen Lawrence.×169.png

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