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Friday, June 12, 1998 Published at 01:27 GMT 02:27 UK


Lawrence suspects seek to avoid inquiry

Stephen Lawrence's parents: campaigned for prosecution

The five suspects originally questioned by police in the Stephen Lawrence murder case are attempting to avoid being forced to give evidence to the inquiry into the teenager's death.

In the High Court, the men are seeking leave for a judicial review to challenge the order compelling them to face questions.

[ image: Michael Mansfield: representing Lawrences]
Michael Mansfield: representing Lawrences
The five - David Norris, 21, Neil Acourt, 22, his brother Jamie, 21, Luke Knight, 20, and Gary Dobson, 22 - have been called to appear on Monday before the Lawrence inquiry.

Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racially-motivated attack at a bus shelter in south London in 1993.

The inquiry investigating the killing has heard charges of police racism and incompetence by the Lawrence family.

One of the detectives in charge of the initial police investigation admitted to the inquiry that he misunderstood the law which would have allowed him to make arrests on the basis of reasonable suspicion of guilt.

The appearance of the five men is crucial to the Lawrence family's campaign - led in the inquiry by the civil rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC.

Private prosecution collapsed

A month after Stephen's murder, the Crown Prosecution Service took the decision to drop proceedings against two men on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

[ image: Flowers where Stephen died]
Flowers where Stephen died
The Lawrence family campaign continued and a year later a fresh inquiry began into the killing.

Neil Acourt, Mr Dobson and Mr Knight were acquitted at the Old Bailey in 1996. The charges against Jamie Acourt and Mr Norris never came to court.

This led the family to bring a private prosecution against the three men, which started in April 1994. The case collapsed because the evidence of Stephen's friend Dwayne Brooks was ruled inadmissible.

Men receiving legal aid

On Wednesday, four of the five men won an appeal against a ruling denying them legal aid in their bid to stay silent.

The Legal Aid Board said the men would receive help in their application for a judicial review.

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