Bulletin – 04/01/2012

JUST West Yorkshire welcomes the guilty verdict of Gary Dobson and David Norris and the imposition of minimum sentences of 15 years and 2 months and 14 years and 3 months respectively, almost two decades after the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The verdict represents a landmark decision which declares categorically that race has to be considered in the context of a crime. While the tenacious and dignified struggle of Doreen and Neville Lawrence has come to symbolise the fight for racial justice, yet another family is grieving over the murder of their son Anuj Bidve, an overseas Indian post-graduate who was callously shot in the head on Boxing Day in Manchester.
Like Stephen who had aspirations of a career in architecture, Anuj too had a promising career in microelectronics ahead of him. The failure of the Manchester police to inform the Bidve family of their son’s death or to keep them posted on the status of the investigation has ominous overtones of the Metropolitan Police’s treatment of the Lawrence family in the immediate aftermath of their son’s murder. The Met’s disregard for victims’ families became a central recommendation in the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report in which the presiding judge Lord Macpherson called on:
Senior Investigating Officers and Family Liaison Officers be made aware that good practice and their positive duty shall be the satisfactory management of family liaison, together with the provision to a victim’s family of all possible information about the crime and its investigation.“(Chapter 47, point 26, Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Recomemndations)
The fact that the Bidve family only learnt of their son’s death on Facebook merely highlights how the Report’s Recommendations, have been kicked into the long grass, despite assurances from polices forces across the UK that the Macpherson recommendations are integral to policing practice. The abandonment of the monitoring group that oversees the implementation of the Macpherson  recommendations represents a complacency in policing practice at a time when racist crimes continue to be committed.
The Lawrences’ 18-year campaign for justice has been a running sore which has held up a mirror to the racism that still dogs parts of British society. In this context the Prime Minister’s statement to the Lawrence family, outlining his hope that the outcome “brings at least some comfort after their years of struggle” provides cold comfort at a time when his government is actively undermining the equalities and human rights agenda and delivering racially and religiously divisive speeches, which make BME lives unsafe on British streets.
The Lawrence campaign highlights the dual capacity of British politics and the press and the media to either bridge or create divides.  The Lawrence campaign became a cause célèbre due to the weight that the Daily Mail threw behind the Lawrence family’s campaign for justice. Similarly the decision by the Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw to set up a public inquiry was instrumental in adding political weight behind the Lawrence’s struggle. If politics is to be a force for good then David Cameron would do well to devise a robust policy framework that delivers a Just Society rather than tinker on the edges with the rhetoric of the Big Society.
It is apparent that the jury conviction of the 2 suspects would not have been possible without the Metropolitan police’s decision to undertake a cold case review, the leading role of Scotland Yard’s Clive Driscoll in pursuing the investigation and the forensics team’s painstaking role in  in pursuing the investigation. However the court proceedings revealed that justice might have yet been perverted, as the basic safeguards that should have been observed to prevent contamination of crucial material evidence, had been clearly ignored.  The criticism leveled at the Metropolitan police in Doreen Lawrence’s poignant statement following the guilty verdict, highlights the personal and emotional burden she has been carrying.
 “Had the police done their job properly I would have spent the last 18 years grieving for my son rather than fighting to get his killers to court.”  
JUST believes that the Metropolitan Police has crucial questions to answer as to how and why the contamination of vital evidence occurred. Unless there is an urgent review of present procedures and clear processes on the preservation of key evidence across all police forces, the pain that the Lawrence family had to endure is likely to be repeated.
So has justice been served in the Stephen Lawrence case? The Acting Chief Constable of Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick believes that the campaign of the Lawrence family has led to major changes towards racism in law, policing and society as a whole.
She is correct in so far as in the decade since the Macpherson Report, the legal framework has undoubtedly been strengthened and BME communities enjoy better safeguards, albeit with a higher threshold of proof for race hate crimes.
In policing and criminal justice terms however the statistics point to the disproportionate targeting of BME people: 1 in 4 of the prison population is Black; young men are 8-10 times more likely to be stopped and searched than White men; more BME police officers are leaving the service compared to their white counterparts; a disproportionate number of deaths following contact with the police are of Black people; almost half the deaths of people in police custody are mental health service users; deaths of those detained under the Mental Health Act account for 62 per cent of all deaths in state custody.
The disproportionate targeting of BME young men is not just specific to London but plagues young people in West Yorkshire too as a video compiled by JUST West Yorkshire in the immediate aftermath of the 7 July London bombings and the introduction of draconian anti-terror legislation revealed.
Recent proposals by the police to purchase water cannons, deploy rubber bullets and use disabling laser technology to quell future riots, highlight the continued use of punitive measures to policing young people and the BME community.
As for the Met’s third claim that the Lawrence campaign has led to a transformative change in attitudes towards racism within British society, the response of Anuj Bidve’s father  is instructive in this regard. When asked about the experience of fellow Indians in the UK, he said: “all my friends who have been to the UK have had some sort of bad experience there.”  
This might not be wholly accurate but for BME communities, in the decade since the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report they have witnessed a number of alarming trends:  the resonance of far-right ideas within sections of the British electorate; government policy which continues to define BME and particularly Muslim communities as the Other; anti-immigration, anti-asylum and anti-immigrant stories that drive the sale of the tabloid press. The split along the fault-lines of race and religion that are occurring within British society while the frameworks which enshrine minority rights – Equality legislation, civil liberties and human rights – are coming under relentless attack, creates a nervousness about the place of the BME citizen within British society.
The experience of the Bidve family in relation to the treatment they have received at the hands of the Manchester Police, highlights that almost a decade since the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report and the introduction of the term Institutional Racism, the definition and the Recommendations have even greater saliency.

It is a very sensitive issue for any Indian. If someone dies, we have to perform all the rites. We burn the body on the day of death and for the next 13 days we have to do several other things, otherwise the soul might not rest in peace …  (we) were ready to fly to Britain to bring the body home, but despite help from the Indian authorities there had been no progress in getting it released. They say the investigation is still pending, the charge sheet has not been filed and a second postmortem is still pending. The holidays are taking their toll. If there were more people working, we would not have to wait so long.

Until there is a radical change to policing responses in relation to hate crime and murders police forces across England would do well to heed Doreen Lawrence’s appeal “not to use my son’s name to say that we can move on” because “racism and racist attacks are still happening in this country.”

The call from the Bidve family to the British authorities “to help us to believe again that Britain is not a racist place” echoes the cry of the Lawrence family for fair justice. The renewed commitment of public bodies to the definition of Institutional Racism and the wholesale adoption of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report recommendations may be an effective starting point on the journey towards Fair Justice for ALL.

As Stephen’s father so aptly put in his statement:
“Something has happened over the last 7 week., I have seen justice been done. I will let this good news sink in however I m conscious there were five or six other attackers. I don’t think I will be able to rest until they are brought to justice.” 
Ratna Lachman
Following the guilty verdict JUST requested quotes from key BME figures on their responses to outcome of the Lawrence Case:
Responses to the guilty verdict on the Stephen Lawrence Case

“I am privileged to have been associated with the Lawrence case. It was all down to the determination and perseverance of Mrs. Lawrence and her family.”
Imran Khan – Solicitor for Doreen Lawrence

“Anyone concerned with justice in this country would be relieved at the guilty verdicts delivered by the jury on the Stephen Lawrence case against the two racist  killers – Gary Dobson and David Norris. Although we have a witnessed a small legal miracle at the central criminal  today,  it is not a day of celebration. It has taken nearly two decades for the trial to take place where the family had endure endemic failures of police investigations into the murder. But Stephen’s parents, Dorren and Neville,  persisted  with their quest for justice against overwhelming odds. Justice delayed always seems as if it is denied. We only hope that the police have learned valuable lessons as a result of this historical case and other families would not have to endure what the Lawrence family were forced to go through. Rather than remembering Stephen simply by the  manner he died, we should instead cherish his memory by the way he lived through his promise, dreams and passion for life as a young black man growing up in troubled modernBritain. Surely then we could move nearer to eradicating racism in this country.”
Suresh Grover – Director The Monitoring Group and Co-ordinator Stephen Lawrence Campaign

“These Guilty Verdicts represent a triumph for the Lawrence Family’s determination and despite the failings of the initial police investigation they represent also a triumph of justice”

National Black Police Association – President, Charles Crichlow 

 “Excellent News, justice at last, unfortunately the Lawrence family had to endure so much in the pursuit of justice. I hope the police service has learnt from this appalling and dreadful mistake which has caused 18 years of pain and misery to an innocent family following the loss of their child.”   
Racism in the Police today is the worst I have seen.  BME officers are being discriminated and disproportionately treated.

David Blair – Founder of National Police Racism (www.nationalpoliceracism.com)
“Justice at last and hopefully the family can find closure, unfortunately it took so long, the police must review what went wrong” 
Sultan Alam, a former police officer who was cleared after 13 years.”  (www.sultanalam.com)  
“Fantastic news, and long overdue. This verdict shows the importance of lobbying and actively campaigning against blatant injustices. Were it not for the Lawrence families endless battle against institutional racism in the initial enquiry this case may not have been reopened and a forensic review never performed. Justice at last.”
Maryam Mir – Pupil Barrister

The Stephen Lawrence case has been part of my heritage and institutional racism is something that I have grown up with.  It is a wonder that justice has taken so long to prevail and the tragedy of the Lawrence family is characteristic of the problems that many Black families have continued to face.  It has taken almost 20 years for one victim’s family to get justice.  How many more years do we have to wait to get equal justice?”  
Moazzam Begg – Guantanamo Bay survivor and Director of Cage Prisoners 

 “Our Lawrence family has faced a double tragedy. Stephen was taken from them by brutal racists and then the family had to wait 18 years for justice simply because of the colour of their skin. I hope that no one else has to suffer as a result of the racism that remains evident in our criminal justice system and that we remain vigilant against the scourge of racism in our society.”
Rob Berkeley – Director of Runnymede Trust

“The judgement is a wake up call to us all to remain  vigilant so that history does not repeat itself and that as citizens we have  an individual and  collective responsibility to ensure  public bodies, policy makers and those working towards a fairer and more just society  are accountable for their actions.  Racism still exists in 2012 and continues to blight the life chances and opportunities of those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.  Voice4Change England  will continue to advocate for race equality and the need to tackle the  underlying causes for persisting inequalities.”
 Vandna Gohil – Director of Voice4Change England

“Today is a great day for Doreen, Neville and the Lawrence family, but also for British Justice.
To lose a loved one in a savage attack is one thing to have 18 years of fighting for justice is something no decent person should endure.  Due credit must also go the Met Police who persisted with this case. But whilst we rejoice lets also remember the Stephen Lawrence inquiry  recommendations are no longer being acted upon. So the small gains we made in transforming our institutions are being rolled back, and in some cases, such as ‘Stop and Search’  getting worse.”
Simon Woolley – Director of Operation Black Vote 

 “We feel that this is a major victory in the battle for Racial Justice in this country and we support any future moves to bring the 3 remaining
members of the original gang to Justice.  Our hearts go out to Doreen Lawrence who has graced us with her support for initiatives in Leeds over many years and all her family and hope that this victory will help to vindicate their tireless activity over the last 18 years to ensure that justice for Stephen would prevail.”
Tony Stanley  – Director of EQUALITY LEEDS

“That heady fleeting moment of hope for black British citizens, when the McPherson Inquiry report determined that these monumental failures were not the result of one bad apple but of systemic institutional racism, seems like a distant long forgotten memory.” 
Lee Jasper Former Policing Director for London and Chair of London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium 

National News:


Article:  Stephen Lawrence verdict: Dobson and Norris guilty of racist murder

Article:  Persuade us Britain is not racist, say family of murdered Indian student

Article:  Woman accused of tram race rant to face crown court trial

Article:  Police forces confess 944 officers have a criminal record

Article:  John Terry to face criminal charges over alleged racist abuse

Article:  A police officer is being investigated for posting foul mouthed and possibly racist material on Facebook

Article:  Housing benefit cuts will put 800,000 homes out of reach, according to study

Article:  Father forced to hand four-month-old daughter to takeaway staff as he fought off racist thugs

Article:  We won’t eat halal meat, say MPs and peers who reject demands to serve it at Westminster

Article:  Thatcher government toyed with evacuating Liverpool after 1981 Riots

Article:  Home Office loses legal battle over asylum seekers

Article:  Man hurt in racially motivated Gossops Green mugging

Article:  Is Britain really broken? Measuring England’s civic health

Article:  How to avoid a repeat of the UK riots

Article:  Last British resident held in Guantánamo Bay faces another year’s captivity

Article:  Obama’s abysmal record on civil liberties

Article:  Before we build Cameron’s big society, we’ll need to know what it is

Article:  Who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ? 

News from West Yorkshire

Article:   Economic troubles are top of agenda for Bradford’s political leaders in 2012

Article:  2,600 pupils excluded in last year

Article:  Leeds £28 million private healthcare bill 

Article:  Kirklees Council staff hit with pool cues, punched in the face and sexually assaulted in the line of duty

Article: Kirklees Council to cut roads investment this year by more than £250,000

Article:  Leeds charity’s £470,000 award joy

Article:  Council staff off for six months or more reduced from 227 to just ten in two years
Take ActionArticle:  ‘Join panel to help shape Leeds’s future’

Article:  Wakefield: Hundreds sign up to fight nursery closure plans

Bradford Council Budget Proposal

Amnesty International Petition


Useful Facts

The 2010/11 British Crime Survey (BCS) showed that the risk of being a victim of personal crime was higher for adults from a Mixed background than for other ethnic groups. It was also higher for members of all BME groups than for the White group.

The number of racially or religiously-motivated crimes in West Yorkshire rose 12 times faster than in other parts of the country.  Government figures show 2,493 crimes were reported in 2007/08 across the county, compared with 234 in 1999/2000 – a rise of 965%. 
Nationally there was an 82 per cent increase in that period from 21,750 to 39,643.

Per 1,000 of the population, Black persons were Stopped and Searched 7.0 times more than White people in 2009/10 compared to 6.0 times more in 2006/07.

Black persons were arrested 3.3 times more than White people, and those from the Mixed ethnic group 2.3 times more. 2009/10

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