Two men found guilty in a notorious racially motivated murder of a black teenager in London were today jailed for a total of 29 years. The case, which dogged the country’s largest police force for nearly two decades, raised the issue of police racism and revolutionized policing practices, especially in London.
Gary Dobson and David Norris, both white, were found guilty yesterday in the killing of Stephen Lawrence, a young black man who was attacked while waiting at a bus stop in April 1993 by a group of white youths shouting racist insults.
Five young men, including the two sentenced today, were arrested in the weeks after the killing after a series of tipoffs from the public. However, none of them were convicted at the time, despite both public proceedings and a private prosecution requested by Mr. Lawrence's parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, when the initial case was abandoned.
A 1997 police report – prompted by a complaint from the Lawrences – concluded that there were "significant weaknesses, omissions, and lost opportunities" in the police investigation into Mr. Lawrence's killing. The growing public and media criticism of the handling of the case prompted the Home secretary to order a more wide-ranging inquiry by Judge Sir William Macpherson two years later that made 70 recommendations for improvement, many of which dealt with police racism.
Recommendations included increasing the number of ethnic minority officers, classifying the use of racist language in private as an offense, setting up a race advisory board in London, and scrapping the Britain's "double-jeopardy" law, which prevents a person from being tried twice for the same offense.
“Stephen Lawrence’s murder was a turning point for Britain; it changed us all. Most people today see racial prejudice as a secular sin that is not to be tolerated," said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in a statement.
Tim Newburn, a professor and head of the social policy department at the London School of Economics, said the Lawrence killing has made it "completely unacceptable" for police to fail to investigate a serious crime against a minority victim as well as they would a white victim.