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16 April 2024

'Get the others', urge Brits after Lawrence verdict


Tuesday's conviction of two men for the racist murder of a black British teenager in 1993 was long overdue, but the painful fight for justice will not end until all the attackers are jailed, Britain's press said.

A jury found Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, guilty of the murder of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence, who was killed by a knife-wielding gang of white men at a bus stop in Eltham, southeast London. The pair will be sentenced Wednesday.

Wednesday's Sun ran with the headline "Now get the others", echoing the post-verdict remarks made by Stephen's father, Neville, who said he would "not be able to rest" until all members of the gang were brought to justice.

The Independent carried Neville Lawrence's quote as its front-page headline.

Meanwhile, The Times called the decision "a qualified victory for civilised values".

The case has remained in the public eye both for its brutality and as one of the key moments in the modern history of British criminal justice.

A major judge-led inquiry into the handling of the case in 1999 found "institutional racism" within the police and led to significant changes in the way murders involving black victims are investigated.

"It looked as though, in Britain in the late 20th century you could kill a black man for fun and get away with it," said the paper's editorial, adding it was "impossible to overemphasise" the inquiry's importance.

The Guardian said the case had been an "insufferable ordeal for Lawrence's parents" and had "inflicted a generation of shame on the Metropolitan police".

However, the intense scrutiny had brought about positive changes in the force's attitude to race, it contended.

The Telegraph expressed relief that "justice has been done", but added that legislation enacted in the wake of the inquiry had "cost us dear".

"Schools started to keep a tally of allegedly racist remarks uttered innocently by children as young as five and people found themselves denounced for harmless, if inappropriate, remarks.

"The development of this pernicious culture has been totally out of proportion to the problem," the centre-right publication argued.

The only "bright light" to shine through the horrific case was "the courage and dignity of Stephen Lawrence's parents, Doreen and Neville," it added.

The broadsheet blamed the inquiry's fallout for creating uncertainty within the police on issues of race, and reasoned that this contributed to the force's slow response to last year's riots.

The unrest flared after the shooting by police of a black suspect.

The Daily Mail, which ran a front-page headline in 1997 branding Dobson, Norris and three of their friends as murderers, claimed credit for the ruling.

"The Mail's victory" it declared. "Stephen Lawrence's killers were finally brought to justice years after our front page sensationally branded the evil pair murderers."