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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 17:44 GMT
Lawrence friend can sue police
Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence was stabbed at a bus stop
The man who witnessed the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence has won the right to sue the police over their treatment of him.

Duwayne Brooks, 27, says he was treated as a suspect rather than a witness by officers investigating the murder of his friend at a south London bus stop in 1993.

The Court of Appeal has now given the go-ahead for Mr Brooks to sue the Metropolitan Police Commissioner for wrongful arrest and negligence, and 13 police officers for breaches of the Race Relations Act.

The decision overrules a 1999 court decision to strike out his claims.

Duwayne Brooks
Duwayne Brooks suffered post-traumatic stress
Mr Brooks told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "The police were not worried about how I was on the night. All they were concerned about was how Stephen got attacked and if I had committed that attack.

"At the scene I felt very belittled by the way the police did not want to follow where the suspects had run and years afterwards I still feel the same.

"I feel sad, upset and annoyed that the police were allowed to treat me the way they did."

The report into police handling of the murder investigation identified "institutional racism" in the Metropolitan Police.

Mr Brooks said: "I don't know if the police officers were racist. They may have never been in that situation before, never have had to deal with a black person in that situation before. But the police service on the whole....the system is racist."


I want the police to apologise. I want them to admit they were wrong, admit negligence, say it will never happen again

Duwayne Brooks
The effects of the attack left Mr Brooks with post-traumatic stress disorder.

His solicitor Jane Deighton described the Court of Appeal ruling as "ground-breaking", especially for black victims aggrieved by police treatment.

She said it was the first time the rights of victims and witnesses of crime against the police had been recognised in law and could prompt improvements in police conduct.

Appeals refused

But she attacked the police for contesting the decision.

"It's ironic they should continue to pour hours of police time and hundreds of thousands of pounds of police money into fighting this claim," she told the BBC.

"Only two weeks ago, the commissioner [Sir John Stevens] hit the headlines for attacking other elements of the criminal justice system for failing victims, in quite stark contrast to how he has defended this claim."

Lord Justice Kennedy, giving the appeal court ruling, said: "There have been many complaints about the way in which the matter was handled by the Metropolitan Police."

The Appeal Court refused permission to appeal to the House of Lords but the police concerned can apply direct to the law lords for permission to challenge Tuesday's decision.

Police are still investigating the Lawrence murder. Five men were initially charged but the case against them was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service for lack of evidence.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Lawyers say it is a groundbreaking decision"
The BBC's Eddie Mair
speaks to Duwayne Brooks, and his solicitor Jane Deighton
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