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Stephen Lawrence's killers sentenced to life in prison

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-01-04

A British judge has sentenced two men to life in prison for stabbing a black teenager to death in London almost two decades ago - a crime that exposed racism within the police and set the victim's family on a long quest for justice.

AFP - A British judge jailed two white men for a minimum of 14 years and 15 years on Wednesday for the "evil" murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993, one of the country's worst racist crimes.

Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, were found guilty by a jury Tuesday of being part of a gang of white youths who stabbed the 18-year-old to death at a bus stop in Eltham, southeast London.

Handing down their sentences in a packed courtroom at London's Old Bailey on Wednesday, Judge Colman Treacy said Lawrence's murder was a "terrible and evil crime" committed for "no other reason than racial hatred."

He sentenced Dobson, who was 17 at the time of the attack, to at least 15 years and two months in jail, while Norris, who was 16 at the time, was given a minimum of 14 years and three months.

The pair were treated as juvenile rather than adult offenders because they were under 18 at the time. This reduced their sentences, but their lack of remorse and the racial motive were aggravating factors.

"A totally innocent 18-year-old youth on the threshold of a promising life was brutally cut down in the street in front of eye witnesses by a racist, thuggish gang," the judge told the pair, as Lawrence's family looked on.

"You were both members of that gang. I have no doubt at all that you fully subscribed to its views and attitudes."

Undercover police footage of the pair had revealed "disgusting and shocking scenes" of racism, the judge said.

Since being remanded in custody over the killing, Norris, the son of a top London gangster, has been beaten up several times. On one occasion, his nose was broken, he lost a number of teeth and suffered four broken ribs, the court heard earlier.

The convictions have brought some closure for Lawrence's parents, who had campaigned tirelessly for justice for their son, but his mother Doreen condemned the police for taking so long to bring his killers to trial.

Although Dobson and Norris were identified as suspects within days of the murder, they were never prosecuted. Meanwhile a private case brought by the Lawrence family against Dobson and two others collapsed in 1996.

A judicial inquiry into the police probe in 1999 found it was marred by professional incompetence, leadership failures and, crucially, "institutional racism" -- a charge which led to an overhaul of London's Metropolitan force.

"How can I celebrate when I know that this day could have come 18 years ago if the police who were meant to find my son's killers (had not) failed so miserably to do so?" Doreen Lawrence said outside court on Tuesday.

Scotland Yard's senior police officer, Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, pledged to continue working to bring the other suspects to trial, even though the force had admitted it has no live leads.

Speaking shortly before the sentencing, he said "the other people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should not rest easily in their beds".

Three other men -- brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, and Luke Knight -- were arrested following Lawrence's murder, and though they were never convicted British newspapers have long identified them as members of the gang.

The Acourts had at the time modelled themselves on the notorious East End gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, and were believed by police to be responsible for a string of violent attacks using knives, media reports said.

Norris was schooled by his gangster father, Clifford Norris, who is suspected of intimidating key witnesses and corrupting police officers to keep his son out of jail, the Daily Mail newspaper said.

Dobson is currently serving a five-year jail term for supplying and possessing drugs.

Date created : 2012-01-04

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