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STEPHEN LAWRENCE - TEN YEARS ON

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The murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the determination of his family ...
The murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the determination of his family

to demand justice, shone a light on our criminal justice system that

can never be put out, Home Office minister Lord Falconer has said.

Lord Falconer said Stephen's death and the inquiry that followed were

a watershed for race relations in this country and a catalyst for

much needed change in the criminal justice system and beyond.

Lord Falconer said:

'The tragedy of the Lawrence story is not only the horror of Stephen

Lawrence's brutal and senseless murder but also the failure of the

criminal justice system - the police, the CPS, the courts - to

deliver justice to Stephen and his family.

'While the Lawrence family have alone endured this tragedy, their

response has impacted on us all. By the work they have done, the

dignity and courage they have shown, they have thrown a light on our

criminal justice system that can never be put out. By the force of

what they have achieved they made the case for change irresistible.

'As a government we have committed ourselves to changes and have

acted on that commitment. Setting up the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and

implementing the bulk of its recommendations, introducing the Race

Relations (Amendment) Act - the most far-reaching reform of race law

in Britain for 30 years, and actively promoting the change of

culture, which the light showed was needed.'

Lord Falconer said the test of what progress had been made had to be

whether black and minority ethnic communities could have confidence

that if another such crime happened today the criminal justice system

would respond differently.

Lord Falconer said:

'There is clearly more work to do. Another tragic case, the murder of

Damilola Taylor, provided us with a vivid reminder of the need to

continue to improve the system. Another mother and father who

suffered the double blow of losing their son and then being denied

justice.

' The review of the Damilola case carried out by the Rt Revd John

Sentamu provided a clear and comprehensive assessment of the progress

that has been made by the police in handling such serious cases and

the lessons learned from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

'But it also highlighted the failings that still exist within our

justice system and in particular the imbalance between the rights of

defendants and those of victims and witnesses.

'The government is overhauling the criminal justice system to redress

that imbalance and ensure the needs of victims and witnesses are

considered at every stage of the process.

'The Criminal Justice Bill's proposals to extend arrangements for

early legal advice by the CPS will further develop the close working

relationship between the CPS and police, ensuring robust and legally

sound prosecutions.'

Lord Falconer said that the active engagement of local communities

was needed if progress was going to be translated into changing

people's experiences and perceptions on the ground.

Concluding, Lord Falconer paid tribute again to the Lawrence family:

'Their service to our nation has been immense. Our obligation to them

is equally large. There will be no let up in our commitment to drive

through the changes still needed to deliver a fair, effective and

transparent criminal justice system in which all sections of our

community can have confidence.'

Notes:

1. Lord Falconer will be speaking at a private reception to

commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence,

at Lancaster House, St James's, London on 22 April.

2. The Fourth Annual Report on Progress against the home secretary's

Action Plan, following the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, was published on

20 March 2003 and can be found on the Home Office website

www.homeoffice.gov.uk

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