Stephen Lawrence: Reaction to jail terms
- 4 January 2012
- From the section UK
The parents of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence are among those who have begun offering reaction to the jail sentences handed down to his killers, Gary Dobson and David Norris.
The pair, found guilty by an Old Bailey jury on Tuesday, were sentenced as if they were juveniles because both were under 18 when Mr Lawrence was stabbed to death.
Dobson, 36, will serve a minimum of 15 years and two months, while 35-year-old Norris was jailed for at least 14 years and three months.
They were among a gang of white youths behind the racist attack carried out near a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993.
Stephen Lawrence's mother Doreen
It's a really difficult day today. Yesterday was as well.
I think how the judge started off his statement today, I was really pleased about that, because I think he recognised the stress and stuff we have gone through in the past 18 years.
And also he recognised the men who were involved in Stephen's murder and what they have done - and there is no hiding behind their ages.
I have had a lot of support from everybody, from the press included, and I think, I just wanted to say thank you all.
The sentences that happened, it may be quite low, but at the same time the judge's hands were tied. And for that and as much as he can do, I was very grateful.
So I just wanted to come to say thank you to everybody for all the stuff and the support we have had over these years.
It's the beginning, I think, of starting a new life because we've been in limbo for so long. So today is where we can look to start moving on and just try and take control of my life once more.
Stephen Lawrence's father Neville
This is only one step in a long, long journey.
I said yesterday I didn't know where we were going to go from here. One of my greatest hopes is that these people have now realised that they have been found out, and they are going to go and lie down in their beds and think that they weren't the only ones who were responsible for the death of my son, and they are going to give up the rest of the people so that I come out here again in a year's time and talk to you people again.
I would like to thank the judge, the jury, all the teams that have been responsible for this case, from the bottom of my heart, and all the general people who supported this case over the years.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson
The failures in the Stephen Lawrence murder case have been a long-running sore for us as a city and an embarrassment to our police force.
I, like everyone across the country, have always been in awe of the Lawrence family's dignified pursuit of justice - they are a fine example to us all.
Today's sentencing is a reflection of their tireless determination and also sends a bold message to anyone else involved in this crime. This case is certainly not closed but I am relieved that some justice at last has been done.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, US civil rights campaigner
One would have to wonder, what would have happened if five young, black men had engaged in a heinous act of racist terror against a young, white man 19 years ago - would it have taken this long?
Justice delayed is justice denied. They walked the streets, 19 years free.
So as opposed to justice being swift and sure, justice is late and incomplete.
These two young men must not be seen as trophies - "We got the crisis" - there are three others on the loose.
Their own community have been incubating and protecting them for 19 years, so it raises real questions really for the whole society.
Those who know the other killers ought to expose it now. It's not to late to confess and tell the truth.
Michael Mansfield QC, who represented the Lawrence family in a 1995 private prosecution
I know there will be those who will be wanting heavier sentences or expecting heavier sentences, as the judge himself said.
Actually, they have been sentenced to a life sentence, so what we are talking about is minimums here. In terms of a minimum, obviously there'll be nothing off that - they'll have to do that, they'll have to do the 15 and the 14 [years] - and then the parole board will consider them.
In this particular case, given the nature of the original offence, given their own denial throughout, given the surveillance video which showed a deep-seated hatred, bigotry and violence, it seems to me a parole board will take very great care before releasing these two onto the streets of any city anywhere in the world.
So I think people should be reassured. Otherwise we are getting back into a situation where it becomes pure retribution, and I think sentencing shouldn't be that.
Lord Macdonald QC, former director of public prosecutions
There's no question at all that if either Dobson or Norris came forward and decided to - finally, at a very late stage - assist the police, it could affect their parole date.
Remember, the term they've received is a minimum tariff, they could serve longer than that if the parole board takes the view that in 15 or 14 years' time it's still not safe to release them on the streets.
These men are hardcore racists who committed an atrocious crime and have evaded justice for 18 years.
I should think the parole board would be taking a very hard look at them even in 15 years' time, so they could do a lot to mitigate their position by, at the very last moment, beginning to do the right thing.
Jide Lanlehin, Society of Black Lawyers
We welcome the sentences that have been passed and recognise that the judge's hands were tied in that respect. The sentences could have been much longer if judicial discretion, based on exceptional circumstances had been possible.
Such a crime, if it had been committed by juveniles today, would have attracted a far longer sentence. Sadly, neither the sentencing guidelines nor legislation allowed for such discretion to be exercised.
Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)
Today's sentences can only be a partial justice for the family of Stephen Lawrence. But following yesterday's verdicts I would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary determination of the Lawrence family and all those who stood with them through their struggle to achieve justice for their son Stephen.
There can be no doubt that in their struggle they were also instrumental in bringing much-needed fundamental reform to policing in this country.
It is important to acknowledge the changes that have been made over the past decade, but there is equally no doubt that much remains to be done to increase the confidence of black and minority ethnic communities in policing.
While the initial investigation into Stephen's murder was truly shocking in its negligence, I also want to acknowledge and give credit to the current Metropolitan Police investigation team.
While nothing can diminish the family's pain for Stephen's loss or compensate for the initial failures of the investigation, the Metropolitan Police have since 2006 worked tirelessly to secure these convictions and to ensure that two racist killers will not be free for many years.
Sadiq Khan MP, Labour's shadow justice secretary
Yesterday's verdict and today's sentencing amount to some sort of justice at last being achieved on behalf of Stephen Lawrence and his family.
The judge heard all the evidence and was fully aware of the sentencing guidelines and options open to him. His remarks before sentencing summarised the horror of the crime.
This was a racist, unprovoked, concerted attack on an innocent young man with a bright future, and these men have shown no contrition or remorse over the last 19 years. They also have information which could shed more light on what exactly happened on that night. They have chosen so far to not tell the truth about this.
If there is further compelling evidence then there could be further prosecutions. I hope that these two who have been found guilty and others who have information about what happened in April 1993 will provide the authorities with any further information which might help secure further convictions.
Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's shadow home secretary
Doreen and Neville Lawrence have shown determination, bravery and great humanity in campaigning to change the criminal justice system which failed their son 19 years ago. They have pressed for very substantial changes to policing and the criminal justice system and their actions have made these convictions possible now.
As a result there have been huge changes to policing and the wider criminal justice system - from legal changes to race panels and improved community relations - since the Macpherson report.
But officers I have spoken to in the Met have made clear this is not the end of the story. That includes continuing to pursue Stephen Lawrence's case.
And it also means there must be no pause in the work to continue implementing the changes recommended in the Macpherson inquiry. That means continuing to do more on issues like recruitment and retention of black and minority ethnic police officers where the Met still faces challenges, as well as reform of the IPCC.
Today must not be the end of the transformation of society, policing and the wider criminal justice system after what happened to Stephen Lawrence.