The year has already started well. Finally, after campaigning for justice for 19 years - longer than her son even lived - Doreen Lawrence watched today as Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted for the brutal racist murder of her son Stephen in 1993.
We all know the case, we all remember when it happened. I was a student in London at the time and was sickened by the callous way Stephen's killers knifed him at a bus stop in Eltham. Stephen didn't provoke the gang - he hadn't been drinking - he didn't even speak to them - he never got a chance. They saw him and they pounced. 5 or more of them - plunging a knife into his body twice - severing axillary arteries. Stephen's friend Duwayne Brooks began running, and shouted for Stephen to run to escape with him, but Stephen collapsed and bled to death on the cold wet street. He was only 18. He was only a year and a bit younger than me. His life so full of potential was tragically struck down. His killers were even younger than him. What motivates a group of young men to perform such evil? Undercover footage of their racist rants is possibly one of the most shocking videos I have ever seen. Who raises their children to be this way?
The police's failings in the case are legendary - not least failing to assist Stephen when they arrived on scene - questioning Brooks instead - as if he was a criminal. The attempts to put the 5 murderers behind bars came and went - all buried in 'lack of evidence' and idenification evidence being classed as 'unreliable.'
With new scientific evidence - a fleck of blood found on Dobson's jacket that was Stephen's and some fibres from Stephen's clothes were found on Norris's jeans -
they were brought to trial and finally convicted. Dobson will serve a minimum of 15 years and Norris 14 at the very least - one hopes it will end up being far more. And what of the other three murderers - Jamie and Neil Acourt and Luke Knight, at large? The Scotland Yard commissioner today said that 'they should not rest easily in their beds.' I really pray that somehow there is fresh evidence - something new comes to light and these three get a similar punishment.
Stephen Lawrence left a legacy. In light of the blatant racism on behalf of the police and how they conducted their investigations into his murder -(taking 2 weeks to even arrest the suspects despite having been directed towards them) which were identified in excruciating detail by Sir William Macpherson's inquiry report in 1999, Police operate now in an entirely different way (or at least one would hope they do). Racial aggreviation is now seen as a crime in itself. The ripples of the report were felt across government, the judiciary, the National Health Service and schools. So much has changed since Stepehn's death - perhaps folk would say not enough... His Mother's courage is awe inspiring. Her eloquence, poise, dignity and determination are an example to us all. A Mother's love knows no bounds - and she proved this. I hope today brought them some peace - although as she said, her son is dead so how can she celebrate?
Maybe when all 5 are behind bars she will have some closure. Please let that happen soon.