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Monday, February 22, 1999 Published at 01:07 GMT


'Milestone' in race relations

Fight for justice: Stephen's parents Doreen and Neville

The leaked report into the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry has been hailed as a "milestone" in race relations.

Special Report: Stephen Lawrence
Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, said: "The findings of pernicious institutionalised racism are long overdue.

"If these recommendations are right, then Sir William Macpherson and his colleagues have seized the moment.

"These opportunities do not come up too often and I think these recommendations would be a milestone in race relations in Britain."

Stop and search

Paul Cavadino, director of policy of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said: "It is clear that the Macpherson report will be a watershed in the way the criminal justice process treats black people.

"Its proposals would improve the way black people are treated not only as victims of racist crime but also as suspects, offenders and citizens.

"It is now vital to ensure that these proposals do not remain pious aspirations but become part of day-to-day reality when criminal justice agencies make decisions affecting black people.

Anti-racism programmes

"The tighter control of stop and search procedures is a crucial recommendation. The confidence of the black community to report crime and join the police service in greater numbers would be far greater if so many law-abiding black people were not regularly subjected to wholly unnecessary stops and searches.

"We welcome the proposal that racially motivated offenders should go through anti-racist offending behaviour programmes as part of their sentences.

"Similar programmes have proved highly effective with other groups of difficult offenders ranging from sex offenders to young burglars.

'No surprise'

Requiring racist offenders to participate in these programmes could significantly reduce reoffending."

John Wadham, director of civil liberties group Liberty, said: "It is no surprise to hear that the police have been accused of institutionalised racism.

"It is about time that the police, not just the Metropolitan police, ensured that they did not discriminate against any group in society."

Mr Wadham added that he had "real concerns" about the apparent proposals to allow the Court of Appeal to sanction prosecutions after a person had been acquitted.

He said: "The real issue in the Stephen Lawrence case was the failure of the police to investigate properly.

"Reducing the rights of defendants is not an answer and it is likely to be used against black people more than white people.

"I think people really need to think twice about this."

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