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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2003, 16:43 GMT
Lawrence pair's race sentences cut
David Norris and Neil Acourt
Norris (left) and Acourt will have electronic tags removed
Two former suspects in the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry who were jailed for a racist attack on a black police officer, have lost their appeal against convictions.

But the Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday that the 18-month sentences handed down to David Norris, 26, and Neil Acourt, 27, were too heavy and reduced them to 12 months.

The men, who were released from jail in January under the Home Detention Curfew, will have their electronic tags removed immediately - a decision condemned by the National Black Police Association (NBPA).

The two were convicted at Woolwich Crown Court of an attack on off-duty detective Gareth Reid, as he walked home from Eltham Station in south east London in May 2001.

Acourt drove his car at Det Con Reid as he was crossing the road and Norris threw a drinks carton at him and shouted racial abuse.

Racial behaviour of this nature must be punished severely
Sergeant Ravi Chand

Norris, of Berryfield Close, Chislehurst, Kent and Acourt, of Dutton Street, Greenwich, south-east London argued that they should never have gone to trial because of prejudice caused by the publicity surrounding the Lawrence murder.

Stephen Nathan, QC, for Norris told the Appeal Court: "When these two men entered the dock at Woolwich, they had nine years of adverse publicity behind them and a campaign which branded them murderers."

But Lord Justice Mantell said trial judge Michael Carroll was right to allow the trial to go ahead.

He said the trial process was designed to ensure a fair trial, despite the publicity, and the judge had given careful directions to the jury.

But the sentences were too high when compared with jail terms imposed in similar cases in the past, he said.

'Wrong message'

Sergeant Ravi Chand, president of the NBPA said the decision to reduce the sentences would send out the wrong message.

He said: "In today's climate, where racial tension is quite high, racial behaviour of this nature must be punished severely."

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

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

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

SEE ALSO
Lawrence pair released
24 Jan 03 |  England
Lawrence suspect 'flipped'
23 Jul 02 |  England

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