Two found guilty of 1993 Lawrence murder

Wed, Jan 4, 2012, 00:00

A COURT in London has convicted two men of the 1993 murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, a landmark case that exposed racism in the London police and led to a change in the law allowing suspects to be tried twice for the same crime.

The 18-year-old student was stabbed to death at a bus stop in southeast London in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths shouting racist abuse.

Gary Dobson (36) and David Norris (35) were found guilty after a six-week trial that hinged on new scientific evidence presented by prosecutors.

Lawrence’s mother Doreen and father Neville wept as the verdicts were delivered at the Old Bailey.

Dobson protested his innocence as he was led from court saying: “You have condemned an innocent man here, I hope you can live with yourselves.” The case became a catalyst for change after London’s Metropolitan Police botched the initial investigation into Lawrence’s death.

A 1999 report by senior judge William Macpherson said the murder had exposed “institutional racism” in the force and also accused officers of incompetence and a failure of leadership.

Since then, the police have overhauled their policies and tried to recruit more officers from ethnic minorities, but the Lawrence case still weighs heavily on the force.

The case also helped end the judicial doctrine of double jeopardy in 2005, which had prevented suspects from being tried twice for the same crime.

Dobson had been acquitted of the murder in 1996 when a private prosecution brought by the teenager’s parents collapsed.

The Court of Appeal quashed the acquittal in May 2011 and said Dobson could stand trial again.

The trial of Dobson and Norris, which began in November, hinged on new forensic evidence linking the two to the murdered teenager.

Prosecutors said textile fibres, blood and hair belonging to Lawrence had been found on clothing seized from the defendants.

The defence said the clothes were contaminated during the investigation because officers did not store them properly.

The two men will be sentenced today. They face a mandatory life term, with a minimum number of years to be set by the judge before they can be considered for release.

Standing outside the Old Bailey with her surviving son Stuart, Doreen Lawrence said her relief at the verdict was mixed with anger that it had taken the police so long to get a prosecution.

With her voice breaking at points, Mrs Lawrence said: “Despite these verdicts, today is not a cause for celebration. How can I celebrate when my son lies buried, when I cannot see him or speak to him.

“When I will not see him grow up or go to university, or get married or have children. These verdicts will not bring my son back.” She said police had “failed so miserably” to catch her son’s killers.

Neville Lawrence said: “My life was torn apart by the senseless murder of my son over 18 years ago. Unfortunately, no one was brought before a court at that time, as they should have been.

“The loss itself together with the lack of justice have meant that I have not been able to rest all this time. I am therefore full of joy and relief that today, finally, two of my son’s killers have been convicted for his murder.”

– Reuters. Additional reporting by PA