Today is the memorial of Stephen Lawrence who we remember 20 years on, following his untimely and sad passing in 1993 as a result of being murdered by two men in Eltham, South East London which was found to be due to a Racist attack. He was only 18 years old when he was stabbed by a racist group after waiting for a bus at a bus stand.
Fortunately, (but eventually)- be it 19 years later, the murderers Gary Dobson and David Noris were bought to justice and convicted of the murder of Stephen in January 2012. This was mainly driven by the relentless campaigning by his parents Doreen and Neville who campaigned for 5 years incessantly to get justice for their son.
Their campaigning paid huge dividends as it bought about The Macpherson Report which saw 70 recommendations of which 67 were implemented leading to poignant changes in the law and practice within 2 years of its publication.
Sir William Macpherson who wrote The Macpherson report published in 1999, found that there was a number of significant errors and pitfalls that resulted in the original group of 5 men who were initially arrested, resulting in no-one being accountable for Stephens’ death and this was likely to be due to institutionalised racism of the British Police Force which. Macpherson defined what he meant by the term institutionalised racism below:
“collective failure of an organisation to provide a professional service … through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people”.
The Macpherson Report bought about a number of key changes including the development of the Independent Police Complaints Commission was founded. There was an increased drive to recruit, retain and promote more Black Police Officers. Even more importantly, the Double Jeopardy Rule, which prevents individuals from being tried for the same crime twice led is what led to the conviction of the two men responsible for Stephen Lawrence’s death.
A memorial was held today where the Prime Minister David Cameron attended.
What is still so sad is that a young innocent victim was murdered those many years ago and with it, the hopes of a young man being abruptly and so unfairly taken away. However, what brings hope and some solace is that his death has bought about monumental changes in the judicial system which with persistent campaigning and review, will bring out further justice for any man, woman, adult or child, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual preference who may find themselves one day, suffering from such heinous crimes that unfortunately exist in our world today.
RIP Stephen Lawrence. Gone but far from forgotten.