The below letter has been e-mail this evening (Wednesday 4th January 2012) to all main BBC & ITV radio and TV news intake addresses; the editors of the letters section of all national daily and Sunday newspapers; and to the editors of the letters pages of major national magazines.
As you see, this letter contrasts the way in which the police, the judiciary and the media have handled the prosecution and conviction at the Old Bailey today of two of the gang alleged to have attacked and murdered the West Indian Stephen Lawrence nearly 20 years ago with the way the authorities and media “managed” the Bengali gang murder a year later of 15 year old white lad Richard Everitt.
Please feel free to give onward circulation. Thanks!
All murders are to be deplored; all murderers should be brought to justice; and the media should give coverage to all such crimes.
This said, I note the different treatment accorded by the Metropolitan Police, the judiciary and the media to the murders by teenage “racist gangs” of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, SE London, in April 1993 and 15 year old Richard Everitt in Somers Town, Camden, north London, in August 1994. Stephen was of West Indian origin; Richard was white.
The circumstances of the murders were similar. Both were attacked by gangs of teenagers who before and after the murders expressed violent racial hatred. Stephen was murdered by a white gang. Richard was murdered by an Bengali gang. Neither victim behaved in any way to provoke even verbal abuse, let alone being stabbed.
Massive media publicity, sustained over nearly two decades, followed Stephen’s case. There was a visit by the Home Secretary to the murder scene where a public monument was erected. A public judicial inquiry was conducted in which the police were denounced as “institutionally racist”. Money was found to fund a private prosecution, which failed.
As we now know, two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris, have been convicted after a second trial at the Old Bailey of Stephen’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment of which they must serve a minimum 15+ years and 14+ years respectively. The judge called for Stephen’s other attackers to be brought to justice because they were engaged in a “joint exercise”. This has been echoed by the entire media and political establishment.
With all this, “Stephen Lawrence” has become a household name. Richard Everitt’s name was never in the headlines for long enough for the public mind to retain it.
Eleven Bengali youths (one as old as 20) were arrested in connection with Richard’s murder. Only two came to trial, Badrul Miah and Showkat Akbar. There were no calls for all the attackers to be prosecuted on a “joint enterprise” basis. Akbar was found guilty of violent disorder and sentenced to three years, of which he served 18 months. Miah was sentenced to life but let out on licence after 11 years despite the trial judge describing it as an “unprovoked racist attack”. The media tried to pressure Richard’s parents to say the murder was not racially motivated.
There was no visit by the Home Secretary to Somers Town, no public monument; no public judicial inquiry; and virtual silence from the local MP Frank Dobson.
I will not attempt to second-guess the jury in the Dobson and Norris trial. I simply wish to suggest that the verdict against them should not be taken as proof that the population of this country — at least, the white working class section of it — is getting justice from the police, the judiciary and the media because they all subscribe to the notion that in Britain only white people and never black people commit offences motivated by racial hatred.
"In January 1997 I had the privilege, as executive director of the Anne Frank Trust, of introducing Doreen Lawrence to Tony Blair. At that time, the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence was a four-year-old unsolved crime, hardly mentioned in the press.
The occasion was the launch of a new Anne Frank travelling exhibition, A History for Today, at Southwark Cathedral. As owners of the new exhibition, we chose to include a panel about Stephen, to show that hatred could destroy another talented teenager's life, right here on the streets of London.
I was told a few years later that Blair had been so impressed and moved by Doreen's description of Stephen's life and death that he vowed on that morning that should he become Prime Minister he would commission a proper inquiry into the handling of the investigation of Stehen's murder. As a result we saw Lord MacPherson's inquiry, which changed so much in British institutions.
I would like to pay tribute to the Lawrence family, to their resilience and determination. Stephen's adulthood will never be lived, and as with Anne Frank we can only speculate what his life choices would have been. But from my experience of working with both his parents, he would have been a terrific and caring young man. How cruel a thing is racial bigotry.
Gillian Warnes MBE, Anne Frank Trust UK.