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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 May, 2004, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence
It's taken more than a decade, and it has changed the Metropolitan Police - and the way many of us think about racial crimes in this country. But it has not brought justice for the family of Stephen Lawrence.

Prosecutors publicly admitted what many privately had feared for a long time: even if the police believe they may know the names of the killers of the black teenager, they have not got enough evidence to prosecute successfully.

Gavin Esler was joined by the lawyer for the Lawrence family Imran Khan.

GAVIN ESLER:
In the recent years, do you think the police have done all they can to rectify what went wrong?

IMRAN KHAN
LAWRENCE FAMILY SOLICITOR:

In recent years the police are saying that they've carried out exhaustive investigations, innovative attempts at trying to get evidence. This morning when we spoke to the Crown Prosecution Service they said that's what the police have done. We've been kept abreast of events. At this last stage, what we haven't had with the police is a full debriefing saying these are the things we've done and our view is we may be able to prosecute on this evidence. What's happened is that evidence has been giving to the CPS. They say on the base of what they have been told there isn't a realistic prospect of conviction. So we are yet to get from the police a full briefing as to what they have done.

ESLER:
You still want that, and the family still want that?

KHAN:
We still want that. We need to see the evidence and decide for ourselves whether we think, as lawyers acting for the family, that there may still be the prospect of further action that could be taken.

ESLER:
Am I right in thinking that you, as a lawyer, believe it is better not to go ahead than to go ahead with a prosecution that would fail?

KHAN:
Of course, you have to balance the fact that the evidence might be so weak that it would eventually lead to a collapse, which isn't going to help anybody going through that traumatic process. We've already had the collapse of the private prosecution some years ago. We have to take it carefully. But when people look at evidence, one lawyer might say it is something they could convince a jury in terms of guilt. Another lawyer might say, I think it's not enough. Here, we have the CPS, whereas I'm not criticising them at this stage, but I don't know precisely all the evidence they base their decision on.

ESLER:
Doreen Lawrence again, as we heard today, who has been dignified throughout and was very dignified in what she said today, but it's been an incredibly cruel process because she must have had her hopes raised that something was going to happen, and then dashed, and then raised, and then dashed repeatedly throughout this.

KHAN:
Indeed. The thing is that every time there was a hint of new evidence coming to light, the possibility of a prosecution which was thoroughly investigated by the police, our hopes would be raised, our expectations would rise that yes, we're going to get into court. There was always this expectation it might not pan out. Until Doreen Lawrence actually saw the writing on the paper today I don't think she could believe it. The finality of that is, I think, what really hit home today.

ESLER:
One of the things that you and others have pointed to today is this almost horrible irony that it has changed things for the justice system in Britain, for the police in Britain, but not for the family. Do you believe that the police have been transformed by this?

KHAN:
In parts, yes. We can't say all police officers. We only have to look at programmes last year, The Secret Policeman, where there are pockets of police officers who haven't changed. What Doreen Lawrence is saying is that the irony, as far as she's concerned, is that in cases I'm involved in, for example, I would say there is a success because the police have been forced to investigate a case, take it to court and so on, there is a success story. When she reads about it, she says that should have been us. But it's not and as a result of the Lawrence report other families who may not have got success in '93 are now getting it on the back of all the trauma that she's suffered. It's an irony that's not lost on her on a daily basis.

ESLER:
One other possibility that the Home Office is considering is ending the double jeopardy rule, that you could prosecute someone more than once for this type of offence, what do you think about that?

KHAN:
Let me make it clear. My position as a defence lawyer is that I don't believe that you should scrap double jeopardy. It's there, there needs to be finality. Doreen Lawrence has a different view about that. From a mother's point of view, she's going to do everything she possibly can to ensure those responsible are brought to justice. I think there are problems, lots of problems. In this case, what needs to happen is that there should have been a proper investigation in the first place before we get over the hurdleż

ESLER:
Get it right first time.

KHAN:
Exactly. Otherwise we would have a situation where police officers could simply investigate incompetently and keep coming back, keep coming back. In this case it's not going to help and that's a tragedy.

ESLER:
Imran Khan, thank you very much.


This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.



WATCH AND LISTEN
Gavin Esler
spoke to the lawyer for the Lawrence family, Imran Khan.



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