Justice for Stephen Lawrence
3 January 2012
This new year has begun with those who murdered Stephen Lawrence having, at last, been brought to justice.
Our thoughts are with Stephen's parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence at this time; and also with his close friend Duwayne Brooks, who witnesed this senseless, racist murder and now campaigns against knife crime.
The murder occurred in South London in April 1993. The first investigation by the Metropolitan Police led to the force being branded as 'institutionally racist' following an inquiry led by Sir William Macpherson. In many ways, since then, the Met has revolutionised its procedures and interactions with minority communities: an enormous process that was kick-started by the remarkable leadership of (then) Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve.
Now, with this successful investigation and prosecution, instituted by Acting Deputy Commissioner Cressida Dick in 2006, the Met has gone some way to righting the initial wrong. However, the primary positive legacy of Stephen Lawrence's racist murder (arising in no small part due to the persistence, integrity and courage displayed by his family and friends), has been the transformation not only of the Police, but of society's understanding of racism and racist cultures.
It is less than 20 years since the murder, and less than 15 years since the Inquiry, but the paradigm shift in racism and attitudes to the victims of racism has been profound during that relatively short time. Of course, exceptions to this paradigm still exist, but Stephen Lawrence's racist murder is one tragedy from which some important positive outcomes have arisen. The challenge to us all now, is to ensure that these positives are not rolled back as his memory begins to fade from public view.