Stephen Lawrence: a challenge to conscience, a legacy of hope

Stephen Lawrence was born on Friday 13 September 1974; family and friends describe him as an energetic, cheeky and adventurous child. By the age of 18, Stephen was studying for A-levels with aspirations to become an architect.

On the 22 April 1993 Stephen and a friend were waiting for a bus in South London when a group of white youths surrounded Stephen in a sudden and unprovoked attack. Stephen was later pronounced dead on arrival at hospital with two five-inch-deep stab wounds to his arm and chest.

A photo of Stephen Lawrence

Police began a surveillance operation on the prime suspects and made a number of arrests, but the Crown Prosecution Service later discontinued the prosecution citing insufficient evidence.

Frustrated by lack of action in the case, the Lawrence family launched a private prosecution and a magistrate agreed that a trial should go ahead based on new evidence. Neil Acourt, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson stood trial but the judge instructs the jury to find the defendants ‘not guilty’.

A turning point in history

Four years after his death, the coroner’s inquest was reopened and found that Stephen Lawrence was ‘unlawfully killed by five white youths in an unprovoked racist attack’. The official Police Complaints Authority report found significant weaknesses, omissions and lost opportunities in the investigation, but no evidence of racism.

A public inquiry into Stephen’s case was held in 1998, creating the Macpherson Report, which has been called ‘one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain’.

Based on fresh forensic analysis, Gary Dobson and David Norris were later convicted of Stephen’s murder. Some police actions pointed towards professional incompetence while other actions were indicative of underlying racism within the police force.

Stephen’s mother, Baroness Lawrence, founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in 1998 to help create a positive legacy from the tragic death of her son. The Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon OBE is the Chancellor of DMU and was officially welcomed at an inauguration ceremony on Friday 22 January 2016.

National Stephen Lawrence Day Monday 22 April

The 22 April 2018 marked the 25th Anniversary of the senseless murder of Stephen Lawrence, a young man who had a bright future ahead of him.

At the memorial service to celebrate his life, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced the Annual National Day of Remembrance and Commemoration of Stephen which is to be held on Monday 22 April. Schools and their communities are being invited to use the memory of Stephen’s life and legacy as an opportunity to empower young people in their care to live their best life. Find out how to get involved.

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