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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Justice for Stephen Lawrence?

After eighteen long years, justice has finally been done for Stephen Lawrence. Two of five men who have been accused of his murder for almost as long or perhaps for longer than he's been alive have finally been found guilty and sentenced.
   David Norris was sentenced to 14 years and three months. Gary Dobson to 15 years, two months.

Because the defendants were not yet eighteen when they committed the crime they had to be still tried as juveniles, however the parents of Stephen Lawrence seem very understanding, even going so far as to say they understand that "the Judges hands were tied."

"A totally innocent 18-year-old youth on the threshold of a promising life was brutally cut down in the street … by a racist, thuggish gang. You were both members of that gang. I have no doubt that you fully subscribed to its views and attitudes."
Addressing Dobson, he said: "You are now 36. At 17 years and 10 months you were very nearly 18 when you murdered Stephen Lawrence."
The judge said under rules at the time of the killing in 1993 he must sentence both men as juveniles to be detained at her majesty's pleasure with recommended minimum life terms.
In Dobson's case he sentenced him to a minimum term of 15 years and two months. Dobson stood with his hands behind his back and stared at the judge as he made his remarks.
To Norris, 35, the judge said he would impose a minimum term of 14 years and three months.
Under the current law which is encompassed in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, if the crime had been committed today, both men could have expected to receive a minimum term of 25 years as juveniles committing a racist knife murder."
But there are still doubts about their guilt:

"But Dobson's mother continued to protest that her son was innocent. Speaking at the front door of her home in Eltham, south-east London, after arriving home from the Old Bailey after the verdict, Pauline Dobson, said: "He's innocent. We are absolutely devastated as a family – devastated.
       "My son is innocent and one day we will prove that.
I really don't know what we are going to do but we will find a way to prove he is        innocent. Ask all the police who have been involved in this case – every single policeman says Gary never did it."
 The case was revived from being a cold case after forensic evidence which previously had been missed or overlooked had been found and deemed acceptable to use in a trial. There are of course doubts about this evidence with some saying that the evidence could have been tampered with, however I believe that without proof that it actually has been tampered with, the theory that it could have been tampered with simply isn't enough in my eyes.

"The prosecution had relied on new forensic evidence after an earlier case was dropped and a private prosecution by the Lawrence family against three men - including Dobson - failed.
Scientists conducting a review of the case in 2007 found a tiny bloodstain on Dobson's jacket that could only have come from Mr Lawrence. They also found a single hair belonging to the teenager on Norris's jeans. The scientists recovered the material from evidence the police had held all along using advanced techniques which were not available to the original case scientists.
   Dobson and Norris denied murdering Mr Lawrence and said their clothing had been contaminated as police mixed up evidence over the years. Detectives spent months establishing the movements and handling of the exhibits since 1993 - and the jury were told that contamination was implausible."

  They are claiming their innocence however now some might say the odds are against them. Of course some might say that the odds have been in against them for some eighteen years, with various media sources calling them out and accusing them, the Daily Mail in particular. Now the Daily Mail is doing it's very own victory lap, no doubt before going back to reporting on the usual cack they report on.
   What I will say though is that I don't condone by any means the way the media treats suspects. We still have an "innocent until proven guilty" system in this county and yet the media, specifically the tabloids still sometimes portray the suspects as guilty. They should be reminded that it is not up to them to decide who is guilty and who is not, regardless of what information they have. It is down to a court, specifically a judge and jury. This is something that must be remembered.

  That said, I have faith in the justice system when it works or when it is perceived to have work. I have faith in the Crown Prosecution service who decided the DNA forensic evidence was sufficient to go to trial, so I can only hope that it proves to be a correct decision.

Either way, lets hope this brings the Lawrence family a step closer on the arduous emotional road that they are on.




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