Two sentenced for Stephen Lawrence murder

Two men have been found guilty for the murder of Stephen Lawrence in south east London in 1993.   David Norris and Gary Dobson have been sentenced for 14years and three months and 15 years and two month for what was a vicious racist attack.While the Judge was obliged to take into account that the two were under 18 at the time of the attack, he did take into account the fact that to this day they had not been contrite and had been uncooperative at all stages of investigation over the past 18 years.Duwayne Brooks, Stephen’s best friend who had been with him on the night of the murder, Duwayne Brooks, Stephen’s best friend who had been with him on the night of the murder, tweeted “Some justice at last”.  There are other suspects so the case has not yet been closed.Back in 1993, the media dubbed the Greenwich area the “race hate capital of Britain”. This south London borough also saw the murder of two other young black men, Rolan Adams and Rohit Duggal in racially motivated killings, along with a 300% rise in racist attacks in the borough.  The far right British National Party (BNP) located its head office in the borough.  The response to the killings included calls that the BNP head office be shut down.Leader of the BNP Nick Griffin has repeatedly claimed that Stephen Lawrence was not killed in a racist attack but by another black person.  Demonstrations numbering tens of thousands took place in the wake of the 1993 murder.The original investigation by the police was bungled and a public inquiry found that “institutional racism” within the police force had plagued the initial case.New legislation The new home secretary Jack Straw ordered a public inquiry – and it was Sir William Mac Pherson’s damning conclusions that rocked policing.The inquiry prompted Parliament to introduce two important changes to the laws on equality and justice.The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000, imposed a duty on public bodies to promote equality. This extremely important legislation effectively means that bodies including every police force, local council and government department must show what they are doing to treat all people fairly.Then the Criminal Justice Act 2003 scrapped double jeopardy – the legal principle that prevented someone being tried twice for the same crime after being cleared at the first hearing.These factors, combined with the public campaigning of the Lawrence family and the impact of media coverage, meant that the case was not going away. And back in Scotland Yard, senior officers were looking at fresh ways to bring charges.The convictions were based on DNA evidence that had been missed during the first investigation.  A drop of blood on Stephen Lawrence’s jacket belonged to Gary Dobson.  Throughout the period since 1993, Dobson and Norris have failed to take responsibility for their actions.  Indeed, they have been uncooperative with police and authorities at all times.  Family and friends colluded with the accused and managed to protect them from prosecution for 18 years.Legacy of the caseStephen Lawrence’s murder leaves in its wake a changes criminal justice landscape. The findings of the Macpherson inquiry also influenced Garda practice in Ireland.   The Garda Intercultural Unit adopted the Mac Pherson definition of a racist attack, that being ‘racism if the victim perceives’ which was introduced in response to a culture of denial.  An Garda Siochana also introduced diversity training for new recruits at Templemore.Ireland would benefit from similar legislation and in particular legislation recognising racism as an aggravating factor in sentencing.   There have been a significant number of criminal attacks in Ireland, in which racism has been a factor.  The only legislation which refers to racism in criminal justice is the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989.  This act has proved completely ineffective as a tool in the fight against racism in Ireland.  Fewer than a dozen people have been prosecuted under this act.Racism in IrelandRacism has been a feature in a murders including that of Nigerian national Toyosi Shittabbey which occurred in Tyrrelstown, Dublin in 2010 and Polish nationals Pawel Kalite and Marius Szwajikos in Drimnagh in 2008.  However these were not recorded as racist crimes because legislation does not allow for it.There is growing evidence of racism in Ireland.  The ESRI back in 2006, found one in three immigrants have experienced racism.  The Teachers Union of Ireland found 46% of teachers have witnessed racism in the school environment in the month prior to their conference.  Other research shows that workers interacting with the public are particularly vulnerable to the experience of racism, such as those working in retail, public transport and health professions.New legislation is needed to account for the experience of racism in Ireland.  Racism should be recognised as an aggravating factor in criminal offences.  This would assist the Gardai to have a focussed response in its policing.  Furthermore it would send a powerful message within Ireland that racism is not accepted in Ireland and the law will protect all those living here.Yesterday, it was reported that Dr Syed Kamran Haider Bukhari, one of 100 doctors recruited from Pakistan by the Health Service Executive in July 2011, said he was reconsidering plans to bring his wife and two young children to Ireland because of the level of abuse he has received.Ireland benefits from diversity and Ireland needs people from other countries working here.  It is crucial that we get the policy right when it comes to racism as we cannot be complacent.Garrett Mullan is the Co-ordinator of Show Racism the Red Card Ireland- an initiative set up to tackle racism in society through education    

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