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Thursday, April 15, 1999 Published at 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK


Police offer Lawrence family compensation

There was a noisy protest outside Talk Radio's central London studio

The family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence have reportedly been offered up to £100,000 by the Metropolitan Police as compensation for its flawed investigation.

Stephen Lawrence case: Timeline of events
Scotland Yard confirmed that negotiations were going on with the family's solicitors but declined to confirm the sum involved.

A spokesman said: "We are in negotiations with the solicitors acting for the Lawrence family regarding an appropriate ex-gratia payment to them, but we are not prepared to discuss the matter further at this stage."

In the wake of last month's Macpherson report - which criticised several aspects of the initial police investigation into Stephen Lawrence's murder - the family's solicitor, Imran Khan, warned the police they would be sued unless they came up with compensation.

[ image: The Lawrences: Being offered compensation by the police]
The Lawrences: Being offered compensation by the police
Meanwhile, one of five white men suspected of killing Stephen answered questions from the public in a controversial live phone-in programme on Talk Radio on Thursday.

'I didn't do it'

Gary Dobson, who was acquitted at the Old Bailey of murdering Stephen, categorically denied any involvement in the 18-year-old's death.

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation: "This is not compensation"
Earlier, Stephen's parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, branded the programme "completely insensitive".

About 40 anti-racist demonstrators, including film director Mike Figgis, picketed Talk Radio's offices in Oxford Street but were unable to prevent the programme going ahead.

The BBC's Peter Hunt: Anti-racist campaigners waited to confront Gary Dobson
On the programme Mr Dobson explained why he and his four friends would not be suing the Daily Mail, which labelled them murderers in a front page story in 1997.

He said they had consulted a firm of solicitors but had been told that there was a gap between the evidence and the public perception.

[ image: Gary Dobson...did not receive a fee]
Gary Dobson...did not receive a fee
Mr Dobson said: "We were told that, on the evidence, we had a strong case to sue for libel.

'Public belief is so strong'

"But the public belief was so strong that we probably would not have won or, if we had, would not have won enough to make it worthwhile."

Gary Dobson answers calls on Talk Radio: "The British public wants to hear our side of the story"
A spokeswoman for Talk Radio said Mr Khan had been contacted about the programme and the family had been offered the opportunity of having a representative on the show but had declined.

She said: "Mr Dobson was not paid for appearing on the programme. No money was asked for and none was paid."

Mr Lawrence said the station had been unconcerned about his family's feelings.

He said: "It seems to me that there is nothing that people won't do simply to highlight their own programme."

[ image: Stephen Lawrence: Murder still unsolved]
Stephen Lawrence: Murder still unsolved
National Civic Rights Movement spokesman Suresh Grover said: "Dobson's radio appearance is yet another injury to the Lawrences, who have already suffered more than enough.

'Rewarded for his vicious behaviour'

"We cannot and will not allow Dobson to become some kind of media celebrity and reap rewards for his vicious behaviour."

Gary Dobson is one of three men - along with Luke Knight and Neil Acourt - who have already faced trial for Stephen's murder and cannot be charged again.

Technically, the other two chief suspects - Jamie Acourt and David Norris - could still be prosecuted.

They first spoke publicly last week when interviews with them were screened by the new ITV current affairs programme, Tonight.

Mr Dobson denied that any of the five had been involved in the murder, saying they were just "rascals, lovable rogues".

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