Stephen Lawrence 20 years on: how the elite used one man’s death to erode our freedom and justice
ON 22 April 1993, Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack while waiting for a bus in Eltham, south-east London. The killing resulted in Sir William Macpherson’s report, in which he stated that the police were “institutionally racist“. He said that you could be an “unwitting” racist – a racist without having a racist thought or engaging in racist actions.
Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, set up the Macpherson inquiry. The aim: “We must make equality a reality.” He sees it as a success, saying:
“The pervasive, open racism of the fifties and sixties, the pernicious, sniggering racism of the seventies, eighties and nineties is gone. For that we have to thank Doreen and Neville Lawrence [Stephen’s parents who battled for justice], above all others.”
Good. But now you can be labelled a racist without intending racism. Macpherson said “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or by any other person”. And with that it became the anti-racism crusade, a moral obligation on each of us to think the right way. Forget about power and elitism. Racism was now for the thoughtless and ignorant, especially amidst the white working class who got a kicking in the mass media. Racism was no longer part of a plan of the powerful to dehumanise and enslave. It was something lower classes did. And, ultimately, in the hands of the political elite racism became a way to bind the country in the fight against it.
And then something else happened. The abolition of the double jeopardy rule – you could be tried for the same crime twice – led to the convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris for Stephen Lawrence’s murder. In January 2012, Lawrence got justice. But did we?
Dobson and Norris are two of the most unsympathetic characters ever to sit in the Old Bailey dock, a pair of lying, murderous, racist bastards. But in convicting them, an ancient law – one enshrined in the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution – was ripped up. The end of double jeopardy means you are never completely innocent. You are always on the State’s books. A vengeful State can keep coming for you.
Is that progress? No. Justice? Maybe. But the Stephen Lawrence murder was hijacked by those with a vested interest. What happened to him was used b y the powerful to whip us all into line.
Photo: File photo dated 29/06/1998 of Jamie Acourt, one of the five men suspected of killing Stephen Lawrence arriving to give evidence at the public inquiry into his murder, as the detective leading the investigation into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence has insisted the inquiry is still live, 20 years after the teenager died. Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll said that “all avenues remain open” and he and his team will follow any leads to try to catch the remainder of the teenager’s killers who are still at large. Last year, Gary Dobson and David Norris were jailed for their roles in the mindless killing of 18-year-old Stephen – who was stabbed as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south-east London on April 22 1993.