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 You are in:  Special Report: 1998: 03/98: Lawrence
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Friday, 13 March, 1998, 18:16 GMT
A family's fight for justice
Lawrence family
Neville and Doreen Lawrence have struggled for five years to get justice
Neville and Doreen Lawrence's battle to get their son's killers brought to justice has been a five-year struggle of fear, anger and dismay.

Losing their son and living with the fact that Stephen's killers are still walking free have been just part of their distress; frustration with police attitudes, disappointment over two failed prosecutions and fear of racist reprisals have added to their grief.

After Stephen was murdered in June 1993, the couple considered going back home to Jamaica, to escape what they called "the rising tide of racial violence" in Britain.

Instead they began to lobby Government, brought about a private prosecution - only the fourth in 130 years, and continued their campaign for justice.

Five-year battle

Although an inquest found Stephen Lawrence to be unlawfully killed in an "unprovoked racist attack" by five white youths, no-one has ever been convicted.

The Lawrences' first major disappointment came when the Crown Prosecution Service dropped proceedings against two men in July 1993, saying there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

The decision caused outrage in the black community and raised allegations that the case had been mishandled by police.

The Lawrences believe racial prejudice influenced the Metropolitan Police's attitude in their investigation of the killing.

"They gave us the impression that they believed black families are always into crime. It has made Stephen's killing even more unbearable," said Mrs Lawrence earlier this year.

Although an internal police inquiry report published by the Home Secretary last year found that the police failed to move quick enough, thus losing vital evidence, it said there was no evidence of any racist conduct by officers involved in investigating the murder.

After the first anniversary of Stephen's death, the Lawrences met with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, who initiated a second inquiry.

Launching a private prosecution

Despite new evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service did not launch another prosecution and so the family decided to bring a private prosecution against three of the five men.

They began their private murder prosecution in April 1994. But three years to the day after Stephen's death the case collapsed, because crucial evidence - the identification of the alleged culprits by Stephen's friend, Dwayne Brooks, - was ruled inadmissible.

The collapse of the case would have meant financial ruin for the family, but the judge ruled that prosecution costs of around 100,000 should be met from central funds.

Family sceptical of new inquiry The new inquiry, starting on Monday, March 16, will aim to find out why no-one has been convicted of Stephen Lawrence's death.

Mr Lawrence said he and his wife were not looking forward to the inquiry, which is expected to last for up to three months.

He said: "We have been forced into pushing for this inquiry. If the authorities had done what they were supposed to have done in the first place we wouldn't have to all go through this.

"Any parent would want to know what truly happened to their child, and why. And if possible they would want to see the people responsible brought to justice. That is all we want and if mistakes have been made by the authorities then that should be admitted too.

And Mr Lawrence said: "We do not want to go through this inquiry but we have been left no choice, what we would really like is our son back."

Links to more Lawrence stories are at the foot of the page.