to demand justice, shone a light on our criminal justice system that
can never be put out, Home Office minister Lord Falconer has said.
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
' 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
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.'
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