|Date||22 April 1993|
|Location||Well Hall Road, London SE9|
|Description||Home Secretary Theresa May branded the revelations about the Lawrence case, some 21 years after the murder, as "profoundly shocking and disturbing", adding that "policing stands damaged today". She said the full truth had yet to emerge.|
The murder of Stephen Lawrence on 22 April 1993 by a gang of white youths was one of the highest profile racial killings in UK history which eventually became a cause célèbre. Its fallout included: cultural changes to attitudes on racism; recognition that the Metropolitan Police were institutionally racist; and, the partial revocation of double jeopardy laws.
In September 2016, a potentially vital piece of evidence in the Stephen Lawrence murder case – a bag strap that may have been used as a home-made weapon – which the police had overlooked for 21 years, was the subject of a new investigation.
- 1 Anonymous tip off
- 2 Initial investigation
- 3 Retrial and convictions
- 4 Secret police files exposed
- 5 Ellison Inquiry
- 6 References
Anonymous tip off
The day after the murder, a letter giving the name of the suspects was left in a telephone box.
On 29 July 1993, two boys from Lewisham, aged 16 and 17 at the time of the murder, were summoned to a special hearing at New Thames youth court where they were due to be committed for trial, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was "insufficient evidence to provide a real prospect of conviction". Five suspects were subsequently arrested but in August 1995 the case against Jamie Acourt and David Norris was dropped for lack of evidence. The trial of Neil Acourt, Gary Dobson and David Knight began in April 1996, but collapsed within a week after eyewitness evidence was ruled inadmissible. It was suggested during the course of that investigation that the murder was racially motivated and that Lawrence was killed because he was black, and that the handling of the case by the police and the CPS was affected by issues of race.
A public inquiry was held in 1998, headed by Sir William Macpherson, that examined the original Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) investigation and concluded that the force was institutionally racist. It also recommended that the double jeopardy rule should be abrogated in murder cases to allow a retrial upon new and compelling evidence; this became law in 2005 with the passage of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The publication in 1999 of the resulting Macpherson Inquiry report has been called "one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain". Jack Straw, Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001, commented in 2012 that ordering the inquiry was "the single most important decision I made as Home Secretary".
Retrial and convictions
On 18 May 2011, following a cold case review, it was announced that two of the original suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were to stand trial for the murder in the light of "new and substantial evidence" becoming available. At the same time it was disclosed that Dobson's original acquittal had been quashed by the Court of Appeal, allowing a retrial to take place. Such an appeal had only become possible following the 2005 change in the law, although Dobson was not the first person to be retried for murder as a result. On 3 January 2012, Dobson and Norris were found guilty of Lawrence's murder; the pair were juveniles at the time of the crime and were sentenced to detention at Her Majesty's pleasure, equivalent to a life sentence for an adult, with minimum terms of 15 years 2 months and 14 years 3 months respectively for what the Judge described as a "terrible and evil crime".
Secret police files exposed
On 6 March 2012, The Independent headlined an article by Laurie Flynn and Michael Gillard with "The copper, the Lawrence killer’s father, and secret police files that expose a ‘corrupt relationship’". The leading article on the same day read:
- It took the full weight of the Macpherson Inquiry to expose the institutional racism that hampered the Metropolitan Police investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Now, fully 19 years after the teenager's fatal stabbing, evidence from secret Scotland Yard files, published in this newspaper today, suggests there may be more – and worse – to come.
The Socialist Worker carried the story on 29 May 2012:
- Eight years ago Laurie Flynn and Michael Gillard wrote the "Untouchables". It exposed the police corruption at the heart of Scotland Yard — and the criminal links between cops, News International and politicians. Today, as the hackgate scandal is engulfing the entire political establishment, the book has been republished. The story of how two journalists began uncovering the corruption years ago is extraordinary.
- Laurie described how he and Michael stumbled upon sprawling networks of police corruption “almost by accident”:
- “We’d been looking at an arms deal involving British equipment being supplied to unpleasant people in Sierra Leone. We were told that there was no such deal and we found this rather difficult to believe.”
Concerns about potentially corrupt police conduct during the original handling of the case surfaced in the media in 2013 when a former undercover police officer stated that, at the time, he had been pressured to find ways to "smear" and discredit Stephen Lawrence's family, and to mute and deter public campaigning for a better policing response. Although inquiries in 2012 by both Scotland Yard and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC) had concluded that there was no basis for further investigation, Home Secretary Theresa May ordered an independent inquiry by Mark Ellison QC into undercover policing and corruption.
Ellison's report was described as "devastating" when it was published in 2014.
IPPC investigates Met Commander
In March 2014, The Guardian reported that Commander Richard Walton had been moved "temporarily" from his post as head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) and had been referred by his force to the IPCC. The move came after Mark Ellison's report found that during the 1998 Macpherson Inquiry into the Lawrence case the Met had a spy in the Lawrence camp. Codenamed N81, the spy secretly passed "fascinating and valuable" intelligence on to a senior Met officer, Richard Walton, who was involved in drafting the then Met Commissioner Sir Paul Condon's defence of his force's conduct during the investigation. In a statement the Met said:
- "Following the publication of the Ellison report, the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Craig Mackey, has today made the decision to move Commander Richard Walton temporarily from his post as head of the counter-terrorism command, SO15, to a non-operational role. The Metropolitan Police has voluntarily referred the matter to the IPCC."
- "She is appalled by the decision to put him back on operational duties even before the investigation is complete."
The head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Dame Anne Owers, said she had apologised to the Lawrence family for the police watchdog's part in prolonging the "family's search for the truth". Owers said the Ellison review made it clear that a 2006 IPCC investigation was "wrong" to conclude there was no evidence to suggest Scotland Yard withheld information in relation to corruption from the Macpherson Inquiry into Stephen Lawrence's death. She said:
- "I fully recognise this has prolonged by many years the Lawrence family's search for the truth about the failed investigation into their son's murder. I have today written to Baroness Lawrence and Mr Lawrence to apologise for our part in this."
Vow to reform the Met
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the publication of the "devastating" Ellison report, which found the Metropolitan Police spied on the Lawrence family, marked one of the worst days in his police career.
The Met Police Commissioner vowed to reform the force, which is the largest in Britain and whose leaders have made similar pledges in the past. It was the first time Hogan-Howe had commented since publication of the Ellison report into allegations of corruption shielding the killers of Lawrence and into undercover officers spying on the dead teenager's grieving family. Hogan-Howe said:
- "This was a devastating report for the Metropolitan police and one of the worst days that I have seen as a police officer."
Full truth yet to emerge
Home Secretary Theresa May branded the revelations about the Lawrence case, some 21 years after the murder, as "profoundly shocking and disturbing", adding that "policing stands damaged today". She said the full truth had yet to emerge.
- "Like the Home Secretary, I find the conclusions of the Stephen Lawrence review profoundly shocking. It's important we have a full inquiry."
On 20 January 2016 – just six days after the Independent Police Complaints Commission reported that he "would have a case to answer for misconduct" in relation to the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry – Commander Richard Walton resigned, thereby preventing the Metropolitan Police from taking any action against him.
- "Stephen Lawrence murder: A timeline of how the story unfolded" BBC, 6 March 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- "Stephen Lawrence murder: police missed potentially vital clue because of confusion over punctuation"
- "1993: Lawrence murder suspects freed"
- BBC News (31 July 2006). "Lawrence detective denies claim". BBC News. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
- "Sir William Macpherson's Inquiry Into The Matters Arising From the Death of Stephen Lawrence". Official Documents Archive. 24 February 1999. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
(see also summary: "Lawrence: Key recommendations". BBC News. 24 March 1999. Retrieved 5 January 2012.)
- BBC News (5 May 2004). "Q&A: Stephen Lawrence murder". BBC News. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
- "Justice at last for Stephen Lawrence". The Times. 4 January 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- "Lawrence: Killers Face Jail As Parents Speak". 4 January 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- BBC News (18 May 2011). "Stephen Lawrence pair face murder trial". BBC News. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
- "Joint CPS and MPS statement on Stephen Lawrence case". Crown Prosecution Service. 18 May 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- "Double jeopardy man is given life" BBC News. 6 October 2006.
- Dodd, Vikram; Laville, Sandra (3 January 2012). "Stephen Lawrence verdict: Dobson and Norris guilty of racist murder". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- "R v DOBSON & NORRIS, Sentencing Remarks of Mr Justice Treacy, 4 January 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Sandra Laville and Vikram Dodd (4 January 2012). "Stephen Lawrence murder: Norris and Dobson get 14 and 15 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Richards, David (4 January 2012). "Gary Dobson jailed for minimum of 15 years and 2 months and David Norris to 14 years and 3 months for 'terrible and evil crime'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- "The copper, the Lawrence killer’s father, and secret police files that expose a ‘corrupt relationship’"
- "Leading article: The Lawrence case is far from over"
- "The Untouchables - corruption in the Met police"
- "Untouchables - Dirty cops, bent justice and racism in Scotland Yard"
- "Untouchables - Laurie Flynn & Michael Gillard's Investigation into Metropolitan Police's secret anti-corruption units CIB3, CIBIC etc, plus Daniel Morgan and Stephen Lawrence killings"
- "Theresa May orders public inquiry after police spied on Lawrence family"
- "Stephen Lawrence murder: Officer under investigation to return to role"
- "Met counter-terror chief moved from post over role in Lawrence scandal"
- "Theresa May orders public inquiry after police spied on Lawrence family"
- "Police corruption probed in Stephen Lawrence case"
- "Former Met boss retired days after report found he had case to answer in Stephen Lawrence probe"