Two jailed for racist murder of Stephen Lawrence

Thu, Jan 5, 2012, 00:00

THE OLD Bailey courtroom in London was filled with extended members of the Lawrence family as Mr Justice Colman Treacy addressed the two men who were convicted of the racist killing. The murder of Stephen Lawrence, he said, was a “terrible, evil crime”.

“A totally innocent 18-year-old youth on the threshold of a promising life was brutally cut down in the street by a racist, thuggish gang. You were both members of that gang. I have no doubt that you fully subscribed to its views and attitudes.”

Addressing Gary Dobson, Mr Justice Treacy said: “You are now 36. At 17 years and 10 months, you were very nearly 18 when you murdered Stephen Lawrence.”

Under rules at the time of the killing in 1993, he said he must sentence both men as juveniles to be detained at her majesty’s pleasure with recommended minimum life terms. In Dobson’s case, he sentenced him to a minimum term of 15 years and two months. Dobson stood with his hands behind his back and stared at the judge as he made his remarks.

To David Norris (35), the judge said he would impose a minimum term of 14 years and three months.

Under the current law, which is encompassed in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, if the crime had been committed today, both men could have expected to receive a minimum term of 25 years as juveniles committing a racist knife murder.

Stephen Lawrence’s father, Neville, called on Dobson and Norris to turn in the other people involved in the racist attack. He said the sentencing was “only one step in a long, long journey” and called for the other killers to be brought to justice as well.

Stephen’s mother, Doreen, thanked the judge, accepting that he was unable to pass stiffer sentences on Dobson and Norris.

“The sentences that happened may be quite low, but at the same time the judge’s hands were tied,” she said, “and for that, as much as he can do, I am very grateful.”

The judge said neither Dobson nor Norris had shown the slightest regret or remorse and had lied to the court and the police.

He said undercover police footage of the pair using racist obscenities showed “disgusting and shocking scenes” and that the murder was committed “for no other reason than racial hatred”.

Mr Justice Treacy said neither Lawrence nor his friend Duwayne Brooks, who was with him on the night of the fatal attack, had done anything to harm, threaten or offend the group.

The evidence in the trial could not prove who wielded the knife, but whoever used it had done so with Dobson and Norris’s “knowledge and approval”.

“Whilst the attack on Stephen Lawrence himself clearly could not have been premeditated since it was a chance encounter, I cannot accept that a crime of this type simply arose on the spur of the moment. The way in which the attack took place strongly suggests to me that your group, if not actively seeking out a victim, was prepared, if the opportunity arose, to attack in the way in which you did.”

Dobson and Norris were convicted unanimously by an Old Bailey jury on Tuesday after a seven-week trial. The men – two of the five original suspects for the racist killing of Lawrence in 1993 – were brought to justice after a cold case review of the exhibits in the case unearthed DNA evidence putting them at the scene on the murder.

Dobson’s mother continued to protest that her son was innocent. At the front door of her home in Eltham, southeast London, after the verdict, Pauline Dobson said: “He’s innocent. We are absolutely devastated as a family. My son is innocent and one day we will prove that.”

However, both parents said in the aftermath of the verdicts that five or six white men were responsible for the killing, and justice would only fully be served once they were all brought to justice.

Scotland Yard commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said: “The other people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should not rest easily in their beds”.

The case remains open but it is unlikely anyone else will be charged. The killing and the tireless fight for justice of the Lawrence family brought major changes to policing, the law and politics. Cressida Dick, acting deputy commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police (the Met), said it had the greatest impact of any murder in modern British history on the police.

The public inquiry into the murder identified institutionalised racism and incompetence within the Met. Acute police failings had ensured that none of the five suspects was brought to justice at the time. – (Guardian service)