DMU honorand: Clive Driscoll
During our graduation ceremonies, we recognise with honorary degrees the achievements of those linked in some way with the university, those who have made an impact in their chosen fields, those who share our beliefs, values and commitment, who can therefore be role models for our students. Here is the citation given to Clive Driscoll, the former Detective Chief Inspector who finally secured two convictions for the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
The distinguished guest we honour now was a police officer, a dedicated public servant. Clive Driscoll’s acclaimed 35-year career with the Metropolitan Police Service saw an impressive rise through the ranks. He led high-profile units at Scotland Yard, and was in charge of their policy for sexual offences, domestic violence, child protection and the paedophile unit, before heading the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force.
Both the scope and focus of his work remind us that, even in fulfilling what seem to be our ‘ordinary’ duty, we can have extraordinary demands made upon us. Indeed, we may have to make extraordinary demands of ourselves; but in doing so, we can truly make a difference.
In 1993, a young man was brutally murdered, and was failed by the justice system. Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death by a racist gang. By 2006 – 13 years after the tragedy – the initial police investigation had, in the words of the then Detective Sergeant Clive Driscoll, still not ‘nailed a single suspect’. In that time Stephen’s parents had never given up on their hopes for justice for their son – but 10 further investigations had come up with nothing.
Clive Driscoll said the case turned truly ‘toxic’ for his Metropolitan Police colleagues when an inquiry identified both careless work by officers and – damningly – institutional racism hampering its progress. Looking on from outside of the investigations, his well-honed ‘copper’s instinct’ drew him to the back rooms of a soon-to-be-decommissioned police station connected to the case. He came across ‘acres’ of paperwork generated by Stephen Lawrence’s murder, and boxes of material linked to an officially ongoing – but seemingly inert – investigation. The past was being buried.
He volunteered to look at the files and take on the case. His boss was supportive, but other colleagues less so: the trail was cold, the case poison. ‘You’ll fail Stephen too,’ they warned. Some claimed the Lawrence family would never cooperate, even casting doubt on their attitudes and motivations.
Clive Driscoll’s daunting task began. He quickly found crucial information had been entered incorrectly into police computers. His team had to start again, transferring every single piece of data from the hundreds of dusty case-files – two years’ work. In total, more than half a decade’s work lay ahead, time often marked by repeated resistance, or lack of cooperation, from within the police itself.
He immersed himself; amid the complexity and confusion, he always remembered Stephen, a young man who had been so badly failed. With flask and sandwiches, Clive Driscoll went daily to Well Hall Road, in Eltham, the scene of Stephen’s murder. He read files while sitting on a bench opposite. There were moments of revelation, and, he said later, of ‘despair’. His review quickly gave the lie to those claims that the Lawrence family had not cooperated. On the other hand, some basic police procedure had been sloppy. Some choices and assumptions, he felt, seemed more sinister.
In Well Hall Road, Clive Driscoll physically restaged the movements of the murder, timing every known action. He had a moment of revelation: this was no ‘brief’ attack, as previously assumed; this meant – almost certainly – that there was more forensic evidence to find.
He pushed hard, and against police convention, to bring in outside forensics experts. Eventually, the breakthrough was made: fibres and blood were found, linking Stephen and suspects – enough to begin building a case, though a long road still lay ahead before two men finally appeared in court. For Clive Driscoll, every mile of the journey would be haunted by the fear that Stephen might be failed again.
That process had needed the full support of the Lawrence family. He worked hard to earn their trust. It took humility, respect, and as Clive Driscoll tells it, tea and doughnuts. On both sides, it took above all grace.
History shows former Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll is the man who finally secured two convictions for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The relief – and expectation that others involved would be brought to justice too, something publicly encouraged by the trial judge – proved fleeting. Soon afterwards, another DCI was put on the case, and Clive Driscoll was retired out of the police. He was of age, but he could have been – and hoped to be – asked to stay on and complete the work that had defined his life. His memoir is entitled In Pursuit of the Truth; it’s a phrase about a way of life but also, in Clive Driscoll’s case, a deep personal ethos.
Each of us should be equal before the law. Clive Driscoll did the right thing, however hard and even impossible the way ahead seemed. His achievement touches us profoundly at DMU. For the first time in a long struggle, Stephen Lawrence’s mother, now Baroness Lawrence and our Chancellor, began to see her tireless fight for justice made to count. In our work with the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, we redouble our efforts to honour Stephen’s name and continue the struggle for tolerance, understanding and equality.
Across long, testing years Clive Driscoll honoured Stephen Lawrence through tireless, fearless duty, and worked to turn institutional failure into justice served. For his inspiring diligence and dedication, compassion and commitment, in a career serving and protecting the public good, we honour him today.