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25 June 2024

2 men jailed for 'evil' British racist murder


A British judge jailed two white men Wednesday for the "evil" murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993, one of the country's most notorious racist crimes which prompted a major police overhaul.

Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, were found guilty by a jury Tuesday of being part of a gang of white youths who stabbed the 18-year-old to death in an unprovoked attack at a bus stop in Eltham, southeast London.

Handing down the sentences in a packed courtroom at London's Old Bailey, Judge Colman Treacy said Lawrence's murder was a "terrible and evil crime" committed for "no other reason than racial hatred".

He sentenced Dobson, who was aged 17 at the time of the attack, to at least 15 years and two months in jail, while Norris, who was 16 at the time, was given a minimum of 14 years and three months.

The convictions bring some closure to a long-running case which the judge said had "scarred the conscience of the nation".

The case sparked an overhaul of the police after a damning report found the original investigation was hampered by "institutional racism", and is viewed as a milestone in race relations across Britain.

Lawrence's father Neville welcomed the jail terms but said it was "only one step in a long, long journey".

He said he hoped Dobson and Norris would "go and lay down in their beds and think that they weren't the only ones who were responsible for the death of my son and... give up the rest of the people".

The convicted pair were among five suspects arrested within days of the murder, and Scotland Yard police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe pledged Wednesday not to give up in the search for their accomplices.

"The other people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should not rest easily in their beds," he said.

Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll, who has been in charge of the case since 2006, later revealed police had received new information relating to the case in the past 24 hours.

"We can confirm that we have received a number of telephone calls in light of the verdicts and today's sentencing," he said. "This information will be evaluated."

The victim's mother Doreen Lawrence said the sentences were "quite low" but accepted that the pair had been treated as juveniles because they were under 18 at the time. If they had been adults, they could have faced 30 years.

Treacy said the murder had a "degree of general premeditation" as members knew the gang was armed, even if it could not be proven that either had wielded the knife.

"A totally innocent 18-year-old youth on the threshold of a promising life was brutally cut down in the street in front of eye witnesses by a racist, thuggish gang," he said.

"You were both members of that gang. I have no doubt at all that you fully subscribed to its views and attitudes."

Lawrence's parents had campaigned tirelessly for justice for their son, who is buried in a secret location in his ancestral home of Jamaica, and the pressure ended their marriage.

Norris and Dobson were convicted on the basis of new forensic evidence which was not available to detectives in 1993, although the original police investigation has also been strongly criticised.

A 1999 inquiry found it was marred by professional incompetence, leadership failures and "institutional racism", sparking major reforms.

Any new investigation would now likely focus on three other men -- brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, and Luke Knight -- who were arrested after Lawrence's murder and have long been suspected of being part of the gang that killed him.

The Acourts had reportedly modelled themselves on notorious East End gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, and were believed by police to be responsible for a string of violent knife attacks.

Since being remanded in custody over the killing, Norris -- the son of a London gangster who is reportedly suspected of intimidating witnesses to keep his son out of jail -- has been beaten up several times.
On one occasion, his nose was broken, he lost a number of teeth and suffered four broken ribs, the Old Bailey heard.

Dobson had already been serving a five-year jail term for supplying and possessing drugs, which has been wrapped into his murder sentence.