Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence, a student killed by a group of white youths in London in 1993, is suing Scotland Yard for discrimination. He says police have stopped him 25 times in "recent times" for no reasons beside the color of his skin.
The Telegraph reports that Stuart Lawrence accuses Scotland Yard officers of having waged a campaign of harassment against him. He claims he is a victim of "sustained campaign of harassment from Scotland Yard officers." He says he has been repeatedly stopped in his car with "no apparent reason and without any justification."
The Daily Mail reports that Lawrence's lawyer has lodged a race discrimination complaint against the Metropolitan Police Service. According to his lawyer Imran Khan, police officers have, on several occasions, without justification, pulled over Stuart, 35, in his car, a VW Scirocco. An incident on November 16 near his home in Peckham, south London, was the last straw for the 35-year-old school teacher and graphic artist.
Lawrence said that after he had been pulled over, he asked the officer why. He said the officer answered that he was "naturally suspicious" of him. Lawrence assumed, reasonably, that "naturally" was an oblique reference to the "natural" color of his skin.
According to the Daily Mail, Lawrence said: "I am being targeted because of the color of my skin, I don't think it's because I am Stephen's brother. Whenever I have been stopped, I have never subsequently been charged with anything, and nothing has ever been found to be wrong with my car. I have never, ever, done anything wrong. I have never been in trouble with the law. I have paid my road tax and my insurance, and always tried to keep my cars in a roadworthy state.
"Of the 25 or so occasions in which I have been stopped, only two have been at police checkpoints – where they are verifying people's tax and insurance. The rest have been random stops."
He added: "There can be no other reason, apart from racism, for me being stopped so often. If I had no road tax, no insurance, or if I was driving erratically, I would understand being pulled over. But on no occasion was that the case."
Lawrence's lawyers have reportedly sent a letter of complaint to Scotland Yard chief Bernard Hogan-Howe, with details of recent incidents and names of officers involved in the last.
The Daily Mail reports the case would be considered sensitive because Stuart is the brother of Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old student killed by a group of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London. Two members of the gang, Gary Dobson and David Norris, received life sentences last January. The Telegraph reports five or six persons were involved in the murder.
The judicial inquiry into Stephen's murder accused the Met of being "institutionally racist." According to The Telegraph, Stephen's parents, Neville and Doreen, received £320,000 compensation from the Met for their poor handling of Stephen's murder.
Stuart Lawrence, commenting on the case and trial, said: "I feel angry and frustrated because I sat through the trial of Dobson and Norris, and saw some of the mistakes made by police in 1993 and the years that followed. Now it appears not much progress has been made in how they deal with black people. I just want police to do their jobs properly. I don't want them to waste time on people like me. Their time could be better spent elsewhere, rather than pulling me over.
"They could be out solving crimes. A lot of recommendations were made by the Macpherson Inquiry but it seems that it hasn't made much difference. I would like to know when things are going to change, when is there going to be a society where you are not pulled over because you are a black guy or a black person driving a particular car. The decision to stop someone in their car should be based on a sound reason, rather than the color of your skin. I have met some really good police officers who work hard to protect the community. But it only takes a small handful of people with the wrong type of attitude to make it feel like things have not changed since the Macpherson Inquiry."
Stuart makes the revealing comment that being stopped regularly by police just because he happens to be of a particular shade of skin was something he grew up getting used to. He said: "But as I am getting older now, the circumstances in which I am stopped are more ludicrous and more over the top. In recent years, I have been stopped during my lunch-break at work. The police were checking tax discs. I have also been stopped on my first day back to work after the summer holidays, which meant I was late for the first briefing meeting for work. On this occasion, I was pulled over randomly just before I got to the traffic lights. I explained this to the officer, that I was on my way to work, but he insisted on going through the process of checking who I was, and checking my car was taxed, insured and in good working order. I have reservations now about the type of car I can drive because I don't want to increase the amount of times I am stopped."
According to The Telegraph, Stephen's mother, Doreen Lawrence, said at the weekend: "Families up and down the country are still experiencing racism. My son has been stopped how many times, driving around in London. Racism is still very high. We need to keep highlighting it all the time. Racism has not gone away."
Doreen said she is involved in a plan to launch a program for fairer community policing. She said the aim was to ensure that no other family has to go through what she and her family endured.
And it does appears that the family has a long history of unpleasant experiences with the Scotland Yard officers, a fact which may point to the experience of thousands of other black families in the UK. The Telegraph reports that in 1999, Neville Lawrence, Stuart's father, was stopped and questioned by the police over a robbery case as he drove through London.
The Daily Mail reports that Lawrence's lawyer, Imran Khan, said: "Stop and search is often used as a litmus test for how the police treat those from minority ethnic communities. Stuart's experience shows that rather than passing this litmus test, the Metropolitan Police have remained consistently bad. Stuart has suffered immeasurably over the last 20 years. First with the murder of his brother in 1993, then the failures of the police in their investigation into the murder and to cap it all being unfairly stopped because of his skin color. Previously Stuart has not complained or otherwise drawn attention to what has happened to him, but now, when the Metropolitan police seemingly trumpet how things have changed for the better, he has felt the need to take action. He has now instructed me to use the full force of the law."
The Telegraph reports that Scotland Yard claimed on Tuesday that it had "no knowledge of a complaint, at this time, from this individual." A spokesman of the Metropolitan Police defended police stop and search: "The use of stop and search is an important tool to combat crime and it is one of a range of tactics deployed daily in order to keep Londoners safe. We have worked hard over the years to establish robust scrutiny processes and transparency is essential to us. The consistent message from our engagement with the public is that the wider community support stop and search as long as it is carried out fairly and professionally and that officers are accountable for their actions. We are not complacent and continually review our progress to ensure we are delivering a policing service that meets the needs of all Londoners - not least in the area of stop and search."
Recently, the Metropolitan Police Service announced it was cutting the number of its random stops and searches in the effort to improve relations with minority communities.