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Saturday, 14 October, 2000, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
Lawrence payout 'excessive'
Doreen and Neville Lawrence
The Lawrences originally demanded 500,000
A 320,000 compensation payment to the parents of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence has been criticised as "excessive".

Senior Conservative MP Gerald Howarth said the money would be better spent on "finding and charging Stephen's murderers".

Doreen and Neville Lawrence had originally asked for 500,000 from Scotland Yard and had recently turned down an offer of 250,000, the Daily Mail reported.

Stephen Lawrence
Stephen: No one has been convicted for his murder
The Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees the force, has now agreed to the couple's revised demand for 320,000 compensation for the handling of the inquiry into their son's death.

Some members of the Metropolitan Police Federation fear the "excessive" payment could set an expensive precedent for future police negligence cases.

But deputy chairman Peter Herbert said the sum was a small figure for a family who had waited for so long for justice.

No convictions

Stephen, an 18-year-old A-level student, was stabbed in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south east London, in April, 1993.

Frankly, we're not an insurance company, we are a publicly funded body

Glen Smyth, Metropolitan Police Federation

No one has been convicted for the killing but five men have at various times been arrested.

An inquiry into the case chaired by Sir William Macpherson condemned the police investigation for being incompetent and institutionally racist.

But Glen Smyth, of the Metropolitan Police Federation, was worried by the size of the payment.

"The police are just going to be left open to claim after claim after claim when somebody feels dissatisfied," he said.

"Frankly we're not an insurance company, we are a publicly funded body."

Mr Howarth, the vice chairman of the Tory Home Affairs Committee and a member of the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee at Westminster, said:

"Is it the case that the police have been so shell-shocked by the disgraceful Macpherson Report that they have felt intimidated into paying the Lawrences what could be seen as conscience money which will not bring Stephen back but may now justify them closing the book?"

'Racial discrimination'

"If the Lawrences are entitled to be paid this sum, what about all the other victims of crime in London who may be aggrieved at the way the police handled their cases?" the MP for Aldershot continued.

The Lawrences had brought two civil actions against the Metropolitan Police.

One sought damages for alleged negligence and breach of statutory duty.

The other was against individual officers, including former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon, on grounds of racial discrimination.

'Small sum'

Earlier this year London Mayor Ken Livingstone urged the new commissioner to reach a swift settlement with the Lawrences.

Full details of the settlement are expected to be revealed in the next few days.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Authority said: "The Authority, at a meeting on Thursday, approved the payment to the Lawrences for that amount."

Scotland Yard said it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage.

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25 Mar 99 | Stephen Lawrence
The Lawrence inquiry
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