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04 January 2012

Christian leaders pay tribute to Lawrence family

Christian leaders pay tribute to Lawrence family

Christian leaders have paid tribute to the tenacity of Doreen and Neville Lawrence after two men were convicted of their son Stephen's murder - 18 years after the brutal racist attack which killed him and changed the criminal justice system.

Stephen Lawrence was 18 when he was killed while waiting for a bus in Eltham, south-east London, on 22 April 1993.

The twists and turns that have dogged this two-decade long murder investigation have included public inquiries, failed private prosecutions and a recognition that the Lawrence family had been failed by the criminal justice system because of "institutional racism".

But on Tuesday, the Lawrence family moved one step closer towards closure when David Norris and Gary Dobson - two men who formed part of a group which had been linked to the murder over the past 18 years - were unanimously found guilty. 

Sentencing today (Wednesday), Mr Justice Treacy said it was a "deliberate, concerted attack" for which Norris and Dobson had shown no remorse and continually lied about over the years. Dobson was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years and two months, while Norris was sentenced to 14 years and three months.

 The Evangelical Alliance gave evidence to the Macpherson report, the public inquiry of 1999 which examined the Metropolitan Police Service's investigation into Stephen's death and found that the Force was institutionally racist.

Then general director Joel Edwards contributed to the inquiry and spoke from his experience as an inner London probation officer and a pastor in Mile End.

Speaking about the verdict, Rev David Muir, former policy director at the Evangelical Alliance and founding director of Faith in Britain who contributed to the Runnymede Trust's Stephen Lawrence Review to mark the 10thanniversary of the inquiry, said: "I pay tribute to Doreen and Neville Lawrence and their tenacious and principled fight for justice for Stephen.

"They say that justice delayed is justice denied. I am pleased that after 18 years, individuals have been convicted for Stephen's brutal, racist murder. This of course will not bring Stephen back, but it does bring a partial sense of closure and healing for the family.

"Stephen's death and the inquiry into his murder radically changed policing and our public institutions.It also touched and changed the lives of many people including myself. We honour his parents and thank God for Stephen's life."

Bishop Joe Aldred, secretary for minority ethnic Christian Affairs at Churches Together in England, said: "On hearing the guilty verdict, I had a deep feeling of relief that at last justice has been done. My heart goes out to Mr and Mrs Lawrence who have shown such dignity and determination, at great personal cost, over the 18 years since their son's murder.

"My prayer is that the others involved in Stephen's death will in time be brought to justice too, and that all of us will now join hands and hearts together to continue to work for a better society where all God's children are treated as equal."

The Alliance's general director Steve Clifford added:"We thank God for sustaining Doreen and Neville Lawrence throughout the 18 years they have been campaigning for justice for the murder of their son, Stephen. After their tiring ordeal and their ceaseless campaigning that led to the convictions, our prayers are that the outcome of the trial verdict will mark the beginning of a time of peace for the Lawrence family. But we as a society should not relax and racism must continue to be challenged at all levels."