Stephen Lawrence - 18 years on.

The Court of Appeal have allowed Dobson's acquittal to be quashed because of new and substantial evidence.

Stephen Lawrence, an 18 year old black teenager was brought up in South East London.  On 22nd April 1993 he was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths,  The attack was unprovoked and violent. During the summer of that year five white men were arrested in connection with the murder. Charges against two of the men were dropped as the CPS said there was insufficient evidence against them. At the end of 1993 the inquest is stopped when lawyers for the family say they have new evidence that would allow a trial to take place.

In the Spring of the following year the CPS say the new evidence referred to by the family is insufficient to prosecute. Later that year Stephen's mother and father start a private prosecution against the suspects. The private prosecution of Neil Acourt, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson collapsed three years after the death of Stephen Lawrence.

The inquest into Stephen's death returned a verdict of unlawful killing in February 1997. In the following month the Police Complaints Authority said it would hold an investigation into the handling of the investigation and in July 1997 the Home Secretary announced that a judicial inquiry into the killing and headed by Sir William Macpherson, would be held.  The intention was to identify issues in police handling of racially motivated crimes that needed to be addressed.

The PCA concluded that although there had been weaknesses and omissions in the investigation but that there had been no evidence of racist conduct.

The Macpherson inquiry saw evidence of the suspects brandishing knives and expressing violent racist views.  The inquiry accused the police of "institutional racism". The inquiry went on to make 70 recommendations which included reforms to race relations law and the obligation for the police and other public bodies to positively promote racial equality.

Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Johnston apologised for letting down the Lawrence family and for supporting the way in which the inquiry into Stephen's murder was conducted.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon also apologised to the family of Stephen Lawrence for the failure of the police but denied the accusation that the Metropolitan Police were institutionally racist.

Further investigations by the media uncovered allegations of police corruption in the investigation of Stephen's death and in December 2009 a retired constable and a member of police staff were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in relation to the non-disclosure of material.

With such a backdrop the name Stephen Lawrence and the anguish the family have felt has never been far from our thoughts. Now,18 years on, on the 18th May 2011 the Court of Appeal concluded that there was enough new and substantial evidence to allow Dobson's acquittal to be quashed. The trial of Mr Dobson and Mr Norris will take place in November 2011.

In April 2005 Parliament scrapped the legal principle of double jeopardy. This prevented suspects being tried a second time for a crime following an acquittal.

It is because of this relatively new legislation and the fact that the judges believe that there is new and compelling evidence that there will be a fresh trial and perhaps closure for the Lawrence family at last.

 

 

 

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