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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 13:27 GMT
Macpherson receives death threats
Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence's murder inquiry was bungled
Stephen Lawrence inquiry head Sir William Macpherson has revealed that he receives death threats from people angry at his conclusions.

The controversial report found that "institutional racism" existed within the Met after a public outcry over the failure to bring the black teenager's killers to justice.

I get awful letters from people who say they are going to come and murder me

Sir William Macpherson
In an interview with the Spectator magazine, Sir William said the phrase "institutional racism" was not his and that he had hesitated before using it.

But he said that it was the only way he could see to sum up what was clearly a systemic failure of policing in which unconsciously racist assumptions had played a part at several stages.

"It was a collective failure, little groups of people. Not just one person, not the rotten apple in the barrel, but each infecting the other," he said.

"If they the police are losing their morale still, if they are still being shot away by it, that's because they ought to be rightly ashamed of what happened during the case."

Inefficiency and racism

Sir William said that although the failure over the Lawrence case to get any result was mainly due to "inefficiency and lack of proper control" it was also "infected by racism".

He said that he could have "bottled out" and not mentioned racism but rather stuck to policing questions.

"But as this procession of coppers came in, our mouths sort of fell open, and we thought we are bloody well going to have the courage to say it all publicly," he said.

Sir William Macpherson
Macpherson has come under attack
But the result of his decision to tackle the racism issue has prompted people unhappy with the report to send hate mail.

"I get awful letters from people who say they are going to come and murder me, and that Enoch Powell was right, and that I ought to have said they all ought to be sent back," Sir William said.

Press coverage

But the thing that saddens him most is his treatment in some newspapers "because I hoped and believed they would be on the same side in getting the police to get it right for the future."

On the more general issue of why people are racist Sir William is cautious.

He said: "Asylum seekers are one thing, but there are a tremendous number of people who come in legitimately, and so lots more places are going to become like Leicester because they tend to settle in the same area.

"It's something that's got to be not confronted, but accepted, because you can't do anything about it."

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See also:

22 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Hague 'mistimed' Damilola remarks
18 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Damilola's parents attack Hague
17 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Police morale 'worst yet'
14 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Hague takes aim at Lawrence report
20 Oct 00 | UK
Lawrences to 'fight on'
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