Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 15:35 GMT


'New era of race relations'

Stephen Lawrence's parents: In Parliament to hear the statement

Home Secretary Jack Straw has started setting out extensive changes to UK policing on the back of the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry report.

Mr Straw's response to the report follows Tony Blair's promise during Prime Minister's Questions of a "fundamental shift in the way British society deals with racism".

"The publication of today's report on the killing of Stephen Lawrence is a very important day in the history of our country," Mr Blair said.

[ image:  ]
"It will certainly lead to new laws but more than that it will bring a new era of race relations."

Stephen's parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, watched from the gallery as the prime minister praised their dignity.

He added: "This is about the whole of British society, the public services within it and what we all must do to make sure these appalling events lead to a change in race relations within our society."

Conservative leader William Hague said everyone should share "shame and disgust" that Stephen's murderers have not been brought to justice.

But he added: "To condemn every police office in this country as racist would itself be prejudiced and wrong."

The BBC's Peter Hunt: The report may lead to a major upheaval in race relations in the UK
Stephen, 18, was fatally stabbed by white youths at a bus stop in south-east London in 1993. Nobody has been convicted of the murder.

The report backs his family's insistence that "institutional racism" and police incompetence wrecked chances of securing justice in the case.

The inquiry, headed by Sir William Macpherson, heard that Metropolitan Police officers had not followed up leads. A senior officer even revealed he had not fully understood the grounds for an arrest.

[ image: Stephen Lawrence: Nobody has been convicted of his murder]
Stephen Lawrence: Nobody has been convicted of his murder
An internal Met inquiry into its handling of the crime than concluded that there was no grounds for concern.

But the home secretary is expected to resist the demand for the Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner Sir Paul Condon to quit unless he accepts his force suffers from "institutional racism".

Leaks from the report suggest it defines the term as "the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin".

Sir Paul may be able to accept this definition as it does not suggest an inherent and structural discrimination.

Mr Straw is expected to say that Sir Paul has led the drive to stop racism in the police and should stay in his job until the end of his contract in January 2000.

Assisant Commissioner Denis O'Connor: "A new standard in looking at racism"
In its official response to the inquiry, the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, acknowledges that "institutional racism" exists but says members are "bewildered" at being blamed for a problem which is found across society.

Assistant Commissioner Denis O'Connor has called the effect of the case an "unfinished revolution in human rights".

[ image: Five suspects appeared before the inquiry but said little]
Five suspects appeared before the inquiry but said little
He said: "This is a moment when we have a big change. It will require a new mindset."

"There is huge willingness and momentum to grasp these issue and move on."

But he backed the view that Sir Paul should not be forced out because of the criticisms.

"He bears the scars - he has launched an unparalleled programme of change. We'd lose momentum if we lost the commissioner."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

24 Feb 99 | UK
Painful reading for police

24 Feb 99 | UK
Day of reckoning for London police

23 Feb 99 | Stephen Lawrence
Rough treatment from long arm of the law

22 Feb 99 | UK
'Milestone' in race relations

13 Feb 99 | UK
Lawrence investigation 'seriously flawed'

07 Feb 99 | UK
Lawrence suspects 'face new charges'

Internet Links

Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign

Metropolitan Police

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online