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‘I remember’

MEMORIES: Former MP Dawn Butler recalls the events leading up to the conviction of Stephen Lawrence’s killers

I REMEMBER many years ago standing outside Hannibal House in Elephant and Castle - where the public enquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder was being held - waiting for the five defendants to emerge.

The Nation of Islam stood along the walkway. They seemed unusually tall and were impeccably dressed radiating calm amongst the crowd.

The defendants; Neil Acourt, Luke Knight, Jamie Acourt, Gary Dobson and David Norris, all aged 16 and 17 at the time, came out with the swagger of rock stars.

One spat at someone, who admittedly threw something at him, but I was amazed at their attitude.

Okay, they were free, but their attitude implied that they got off scot-free and they didn't give a damn who knew.

I too wanted to throw something. It was almost an impulsive reaction to what I felt was an injustice beyond words. I was also angry at the Police. Why hadn't they done more? Why hadn't they acted sooner? I was not surprised at the Police inactivity or their racism. Having previously watched my brother being wrongly arrested I had no trust in the police.

Doreen and Neville Lawrence have done an amazing job, especially Doreen whom I know personally. She is a formidable strong black woman whom I have admired and had many a conversation with.

Her drive to not only fight the injustice, but to keep Stephen’s memory alive by inspiring generations of young people to achieve, is inspiring.

Many parents or family members have given up over the years. The weight of the system, the Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and the politicians have just been too much for them.

When people say politics does not matter, I will ask them to consider that if Labour had not been successful in 1997, an inquiry headed by Sir William Macpherson may never have happened. The widely recognised term of institutional racism may never have been used and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) may never have changed.

But there is so much more to be done. The MPS need to change. Until they convict some of the alleged corrupt police officers - who were responsible for allowing the murderers of Stephen Lawrence to go free - the modernisation of the MPS have just not gone far enough.

Race has been off the agenda (well almost) for many years. People don't really like to talk about race much, it can be portrayed as too radical. It will never be radical to me, just a way of life.

We recently had riots in the UK, what started it? It was the way a black family was treated by the Metropolitan Police Service.

When the changes in the double jeopardy laws happened I feared that we would see many more black people behind bars and more injustices not fewer would be the outcome.

I am beyond pleased that the law has worked in this way and we have now seen two known criminals convicted for the crime they committed in 1993 - 19 years ago!

Although they have to be charged as juveniles - they were teenagers when then committed the crime – which in effect means that they have gotten a more lenient sentence, I still wonder why that is?

I am no lawyer and I appreciate that the judge’s hands were tied, but I was under the impression that the joint enterprise law is over 200 years old so they should, in my humble opinion, be given the maximum sentences possible.

None the less I now hope that Gary Dobson and David Norris will give up their friends so that they will have company in Prison and Doreen and Neville can finally move on with the rest of their lives in private.

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