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article imageOp-Ed: Stephen Lawrence — The compounding of an injustice

By Alexander Baron     Jan 4, 2012 in Crime
London - Yesterday, the jury returned verdicts of guilty on both defendants in a murder case that has caused controversy from its very beginning, nearly 19 years ago on a South London street. But has justice been done?
The headline on page 10 of London Metro on December 16 last was Norris's mother 'faked Stephen stabbing alibi', the quote's signify this was simply an allegation rather than a fact. An enormous number of allegations have been made in this case over the years, but the elephant in the courtroom was the allegation that neither of the QCs defending these two men appears to have had the courage to make, that is that the new forensic evidence may have been and indeed probably was faked by a police officer assigned to this case, or perhaps more than one working in collusion.
Before tackling that issue though, for those who are not au fait with the case, some background can be found here, while more detail and some analysis made some 6 years ago can be found here. In all humility, this analysis has, and will, stand the test of time. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the one of the first news reports broadcast in the wake of the convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris, in particular this one by ITN.
As well as announcing the verdict, this report simply parrots the nonsense spouted by ill-informed people at the time and later, including Doreen Lawrence. While it may seem distateful to criticise a grieving mother, it is necessary to view even the most heinous of murders dispassionately.
The mindless parroting of the mantra racist, racist, racist is not helpful; the protesters shown in this video are carrying placards produced by the Socialist Workers Party, an organisation that is so blinded by its own political agenda that it finds racism everywhere. Among other things it supported uncritically convicted murderer Satpal Ram, and its take on the mindless criminality of the August riots is a marvel to behold.
The Stephen Lawrence case was not about racism, it was about justice; no one should be murdered while simply standing on the public highway waiting for a bus, and when someone is, the killer(s) should be brought to justice. Clearly that was not the case here, but first let us deal with the criticisms made of the police at the time. Were they fair?
The claim by Doreen Lawrence that they were afraid to get black blood on them was certainly not fair. When the police are called to a violent incident it is often unclear who is the protagonist and who is the innocent party - if anyone is innocent - or who is hurt and how badly. Although Stephen Lawrence had clearly been stabbed, no one apart from his friend Duwayne Brooks seemed to realise how badly he was injured. When it became clear that he had been stabbed severely, they did their best to help him, but if a busload of doctors rather than the police had turned up that night, they would not have been able to do anything for him, his injuries were fatal.
The claim they should not have treated the murder as gang related is also wrong. Clearly it was gang related in a sense because Stephen Lawrence was attacked by a gang. Was it inappropriate or even racist for them to investigate the possibility that he himself had been a member of a gang? Clearly not, this would have been one of many lines of inquiry. While the police will generally do their best to keep the next of kin informed, it is not police procedure for them to keep up a running commentary, nor to make even grieving parents privy to evidence or operational matters. For one thing, however ludicrous it may appear to her, Doreen Lawrence herself would have been a suspect in a very general sense, as are all family, relatives and friends in any murder investigation, although she would have been ruled out very quickly.
The claim that the police should have swooped on and arrested the prime suspects at the drop of a hat on the strength of two anonymous letters is also ill-considered. The criterion for arrest is reasonable suspicion (probable cause, as our American friends say). Can two anonymous letters - that were possibly written by the same person with mischievous intent - be called reasonable suspicion?
In the early hours of December 27, 1999, Neville Lawrence, Stephen's father, was stopped by the police while driving his car in North London. A woman had reported being mugged by two black men in the area; Mr Lawrence and his passenger, his cousin, were black, and they were detained for about 20 minutes. He was apparently not too happy with this, indeed the aforementioned Socialist Workers Party is forever harping on about young black men being stopped and searched arbitrarily, but it is clear that in this case the stop was reasonable. Would an arrest or arrests have been reasonable in the Stephen Lawrence case at such an early stage, or did the police do the right thing by continuing to investigate and gather evidence?
In its April 21, 2002 edition, the late and unlamented News Of The World claimed that the original suspects - the Acourt gang - of which Dobson and Norris were members - may actually have been innocent. No source is named, but it is claimed the Acourt gang had been on their way to fight another, the Coronet gang.
Immediately after the verdict, the BBC screened a Panorama documentary - currently found here.
This simply rehashes for the Nth time the nonsense about police incompetence and institutional racism. It also makes out Doreen Lawrence to be some kind of heroine, battling against the police and the judiciary, instead of a woman who was and remains ignorant of police methodology.
This is the story of how an ordinary family exposed the mighty Metropolitan Police as “institutionally racist”. No, it did not! This programme had clearly been in preparation for some considerable time because it accompanied Doreen Lawrence to her native Jamaica where she and her now ex-husband sent their son's body to be buried. The best thing we did, she said, was to bring him here, because the UK didn't deserve him. Now who's being racist?
The police weren't interested in catching Stephen's killers, she said; they assumed it must have been gang related. Again, this was a reasonable line of inquiry.
The covert police surveillance video of the gang is paraded as almost beyond belief, almost beyond bearing, according to one commentator. And the lesson of this is? To begin with, this is evidence of contemptible youths - as many of us are when we are young, contemptible of authority and sometimes the world. Haven't they heard of angry young men? Or bravado? They were simply trash talking to their peers. Having said that, most kids grow out of this sort of thing. The other thing this video shows is that people who eavesdrop on the conversations of others seldom hear anything good about themselves. As well as disparaging blacks, the Acourt gang had some strong words to say about the police, not unreasonably if they were indeed innocent.
The real issue though is by what legal authority does Big Brother break into private premises and set up covert surveillance equipment to spy on not only possibly bona fide suspects but anyone else who uses those premises?
The Panorama documentary has no criticisms to make of the Macpherson Inquiry, and its ludicrous conclusions and recommendations. Certainly neither Macpherson's ludicrous report nor the implementation of its recommendations changed the face of race relations in Britain for the better.
The documentary does not mention either the payments Doreen and Neville received from the Metropolitan Police. In February 2000 it was reported that having already rejected a settlement of £175,000 - settlement for what? - they were set to receive £320,000 which included, £98,898 for loss of earnings caused by psychiatric illness, and £7,000 for trips abroad to relieve stress. As the saying goes, you couldn't make it up.
Finally, the documentary does not mention the shady antecedents of their lawyer, Imran Khan, the man who stood next to Doreen Lawrence outside the Central Criminal Court as she spoke after the conviction of Dobson and Norris. Khan is - or rather was - an uncritical supporter of not murder victim but rightly convicted murderer Satpal Ram. On November 17, 1999, he along with Neville Lawrence no less, attended a meeting at the House of Commons in support of Ram.
One of the things this meeting called for was “The right of a person to defend themself against a racist attack has to be recognised.”
Including presumably the right to carry an illegal weapon - a flick knife.
Amazing, isn't it? The innocent Stephen Lawrence was stabbed twice in the chest by an armed thug who disappeared into the night. And Satpal Ram was an armed thug who stabbed an innocent man in the back twice then disappeared into the night. Shame on you, Imran, and shame on you Neville, for allowing your son's name to be mentioned in the same breath as a murderer who treated another innocent victim the same way your son was treated.
Having disposed of the Panorama programme, let us return to the trial. Dobson had two alibi witnesses: his parents. The mother of David Norris gave her son an alibi. Neither of these were believed. The jacket on which the blood of Stephen Lawrence was allegedly found belonged to Dobson; he denied wearing it. Certainly no one reported any of the attackers wearing such a jacket on the night of the murder, and it is nothing if distinctive, even under street lights. The person who wielded the knife was also distinctive, and was not one of the Acourt gang. One other thing should be added to the above, this is the fact that since 1993 not one of the principal suspects has said or had attributed to him the slightest incriminating statement. Bearing in mind that none of them is exactly doctorate material, this desideratum also points towards innocence.
Thus the jury was faced with, on the one hand, inconclusive and indeed negative evidence of guilt - eyewitness testimony - and forensics which were at best dubious. Could there be another explanation besides accidental contamination? Of course, fabrication. This was no ordinary cold case review; if the supposedly new forensics had pointed to an entirely new suspect, they would have been far more credible, but the fact remains that the public is reliant on the integrity of the police to handle forensics and other exhibits in good faith, and at the end of the day, we have only their word that they acted in good faith. Yet we know the police are capable of acting in not simply bad faith but no faith at all.
The most reasonable explanation for the incriminating forensic evidence in this case, is that it was planted. If anyone doubts the police are capable of such perfidy, they should check out the case of Winston Silcott, whose conviction for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock (which was overturned on appeal) involved a massive conspiracy of bent coppers who fabricated his unsigned confession out of the whole cloth.
It should also be noted that the Acourt gang were and are not the only suspects. There are still 9 potential suspects, which means that corruption aside, the police are keeping an open mind.
At the end of the day, this case was not about racism or such nonsense, rather it was and remains about a culture of violence, guns and knives that permeates youths - of all races - in many of Britain's cities, and indeed in cities throughout the West if not throughout the world.
The most disturibing things about this case though are the way it has been used not only to brainwash especially the young with the mantra of the “anti-racist” lobby, but to undermine the rule of law. This is the second time double jeopardy has been thrown out of the window. We can be sure it will not be the last, and that at some time in the not too distant future attempts will be made to weaken the criteria for prosecution after acquittal. Which will open the door to prosecuting the same person for the same alleged offence over and over again until the jury returns the right verdict.
There is of course scant sympathy for either Gary Dobson or David Norris, but the next person to be hauled over the coals in this fashion probably won't be a nasty racist, he may even be black, and then we will see the usual suspects chanting the same mantra, but by then it will be too late.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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