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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Lawrence pair jailed for race attack
David Norris and Neil Acourt
David Norris (left) and Neil Acourt were convicted in July
Two of the former suspects in the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation have been jailed for a racist attack on a police officer.

David Norris, 25, and Neil Acourt, 27, were convicted of the attack on Detective Constable Gareth Reid in south-east London on 11 May last year.


I intend to send a signal to others it is not acceptable... to behave in this kind of way

Judge Michael Carroll
Norris, a passenger in a car driven by Acourt, threw a drink and shouted racist abuse at Mr Reid, who is black, as he walked home from Eltham railway station.

At Woolwich Crown Court on Friday, Judge Michael Carroll sentenced the two men to 18 months each.

"The court has a duty to mark society's abhorrence of racially motivated behaviour, alarm or distress and as far as I am concerned this is one of the more serious incidents of this kind," he said.

"As well as a punishment, I intend to send a signal to others it is not acceptable in Eltham or elsewhere to behave in this kind of way."

The judge said the men would each serve a minimum of nine months behind bars.

But their lawyer John Hurlock said the pair did not accept their conviction, and planned to appeal against it.

'Moment of madness'

The attack took place half a mile from where Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993.

The jury decided that Acourt drove the car straight at Mr Reid because he was black, as part of a "joint enterprise" with Norris.

Norris, of Benningfield Court, Chislehurst, Kent and Acourt of Dutton Street, Greenwich, were convicted in July.


We will support victims of race crime, victims of all hate crime

Detective Inspector Mark Castell
Both men had denied the charge of racially-aggravated harassment, causing alarm or distress.

Norris claimed he threw the drink "in a moment of madness" brought on by "nine years of persecution" following the Lawrence investigation, but denied shouting racist abuse.

Sentencing the pair, the judge made reference to the Lawrence murder, although he added: "I made it plain that I've no concern as to the details of that matter."

"You came into Eltham in a hire car and went to the area where Stephen Lawrence was murdered nine years ago, an event which you have since complained of as leading to persecution and harassment for you both," he told Acourt and Norris.

"You committed this particular offence about half a mile away from where that murder took place, indeed in the same road."

'Lessons learned'

Police officers who worked on the case welcomed the jail sentences.

Speaking outside the court, Detective Inspector Mark Castell told the BBC: "These sort of attacks should not happen and today's sentence reinforces that message.


We are somewhat displeased that it's not the maximum sentence

Chief Inspector Leroy Logan
"The Metropolitan Police Service learned very good lessons from the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence.

"We will support victims of race crime, victims of all hate crime, and we will help them through the judicial process."

Chief Inspector Leroy Logan, chairman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, said the jail terms handed down should have been longer.

"We are somewhat displeased that it's not the maximum sentence of two years in view of the nature of the offence and the public interest," he said.

"Police officers in general are subject to abuse, but if people think they can highlight extra differences through colour, culture or origins, they will throw comments at officers."

Acourt and Norris were among five men accused of murdering black teenager Stephen Lawrence in April 1993.

The Lawrence family brought a private prosecution against the five three years later, but the action was dropped at the committal stage.

Acourt also previously stood trial for murder at the Old Bailey with two others but the judge ordered the jury to return a not guilty verdict.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Duncan Kennedy reports:
"The judge said it was one of the most serious kinds of racial attack"
Chief Insp Leroy Logan, Met Black Police Association
"We're somewhat displeased that it wasn't the maximum sentence"

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See also:

24 Jul 02 | England
23 Jul 02 | England
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