UK men sentenced for 1993 'racist' murder

Judge calls Stephen Lawrence murder a "terrible and evil crime", and sentences two men to minimum of 15 and 14 years.

    Two British men have been given the life sentences for the 1993 murder of a black teenager. They were convicted by a British jury on Tuesday after a three-day deliberation.

    Gary Dobson, 36, was given a 15-year and two month prison term and David Norris, 35, was given 14 years and three months on Wednesday, for stabbing to death Stephen Lawrence.

    The men were sentenced according to British law at the time of the killing, and they were given sentences according to their age at the time.

    Judge Colman Treacy told the Old Bailey court in London it was a "terrible and evil crime", adding that the pair would have faced longer sentences except for the fact that they were teenagers when the murder happened.

    "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," Treacy said.

    Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in Eltham, southeast London, in April 1993 by a group of white teenagers.

    Treacy said Lawrence was killed "for no other reason than racial hatred".

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

    Race relations

    Britain's top police officer, Scotland Yard Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, said shortly before the sentences were passed that "the other people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should not rest easily in their beds".

    Dobson (L) and Norris were sentenced in a murder case that exposed "institutional racism" [Reuters]

    The Stephen Lawrence case changed race relations in Britain, after a 1999 report by senior judge William Macpherson said the murder had exposed "institutional racism" in the police force and also accused officers of incompetence and a failure of leadership.

    Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull said that Eighteen years after Lawrence's death, "problems still remain" in the UK government and policing structure.

    "Studies suggest that Blacks are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched 'at random' on the streets than whites," our correspondent said from London.

    The Lawrence case also helped end the judicial doctrine of double jeopardy, which had previously prevented suspects from being tried twice for the same crime.

    One of the defendants, Dobson, had been acquitted of the murder in 1996 when a private prosecution, brought by the teenager's parents, fell apart.

    The Court of Appeal quashed that acquittal in May 2011 and said Dobson could stand trial again, a decision made possible after double jeopardy was scrapped in 2005.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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