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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Q&A: The Macpherson Report
The suspects outside the Inquiry building
Five men suspected of murdering Stephen Lawrence gave evidence
On 22 April 1993 black 18 year old Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a group of five or six white youths in Eltham, South East London.

In July charges against two youths were dropped. The CPS said there was insufficient evidence to continue with the prosecution.

A private case was launched by the Lawrence family in April 1994 but it collapsed two years later - identification evidence relating to three youths was ruled inadmissible leading to acquittal.

In March 1997 the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) announced it would carry out an investigation into the case. In July of that year then Home Secretary Jack Straw announced an inquiry into Stephen's death to be chaired by Sir William Macpherson.

Sir William said the Inquiry was a response to "explicit complaints and serious unease about the conduct by individual officers and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in their investigation of Stephen Lawrence's murder".

In December the PCA's own report concluded that the police operation was well organised and effective. It said there was no evidence of racist conduct although it admitted weaknesses in the investigation.

What were the terms of reference?

"To inquire into the matters arising from the death of Stephen Lawrence on 22 April 1993 to date, in order particularly to identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes."

Who was on the Committee?

Three Advisers were appointed by the Home Secretary to advise and support the Chairman:

  • Mr Tom Cook, retired Deputy Chief Constable for West Yorkshire;
  • The Right Reverend Dr John Sentamu, the Bishop for Stepney;
  • Dr Richard Stone, Chair of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality.
The lawyers included Edmund Lawson QC (for the Inquiry), Michael Mansfield QC (for the Lawrence family) and Jeremy Gompertz QC (for the Metropolitan Police Service).

Who gave evidence?

  • Stephen Lawrence's parents, Neville and Doreen, and his friends;
  • Witnesses to his murder, the five suspects and police officers;
  • Interested parties such as the Home Office, Crown Prosecution Service, the Metropolitan Police, other regional police, police associations;
  • Black and anti-racist groups and organisations including the Commission for Racial Equality, local authorities and the Criminal Bar Association.

What did the report say?

Macpherson stated how the inquiry made 'forcibly' public the 'underplayed' dissatisfaction and unhappiness of minority ethnic communities with police.

He said opportunities should be seized and the debate "carried forward into action".

The Report contained a number of criticisms of the Metropolitan Police. Specific officers were named but the entire force was criticised.

"The investigation was marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers."

What it recommended

It contained 70 key recommendations for society to show "zero tolerance" for racism which included measures to improve police accountability. But action was demanded in other public bodies. The judicial system, the civil service, local government, the NHS and schools were all identified as in need of change.

Reaction

The Prime Minister promised radical reform in response to the recommendations. The centrepiece was a commitment to extending the Race Relations Act to the whole of the public sector, including the police.

A steering group was set up to oversee the implementation of the 70 recommendations which included the Commission for Racial Equality and the Black Police Association.

The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 extended the Race Relations Act 1976 to prohibit discrimination in all functions of public authorities.

The independent Metropolitan Police Authority was set up in 1999 to scrutinise and support the Met and improve policing and the trust of communities in London.

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