Racism still a problem, says Lawrence

By politics.co.uk staff

We are yet to be a “truly united kingdom” and still face problems of racism despite a decade of action, the mother of Stephen Lawrence said today.

Speaking at a conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the Macpherson report, which famously accused the Metropolitan police of being institutionally racist, she warned society was in danger of becoming complacent while racism haunts our institutions.

“It has been 15 years, 10 months and two days since the devastating murder of my son, Stephen Lawrence,” she said.

“The sheer brutality of Stephen’s wounds should have shocked the police into action to take down his killers.

“But he was black and, in their eyes, his death did not warrant the same urgency as that of a white person.

“In the years that followed, our family had to fight all of the levels of the justice system, which has repeatedly denied us justice for his death.”

She said her son’s killers had not been brought to justice because of “racism and incompetence”.

Justice secretary Jack Straw, also speaking at the conference, admitted that his own government department suffers from racism to some degree.

At the weekend, Mr Straw had said that he believed there is no longer a problem of institutional racism within the Metropolitan police.

And Sir Paul Stephenson, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, also spoke in defence of the police, claiming the problem no longer existed.

“Is the Met still institutionally racist? Others will continue the debate,” he said.

“I have to say that, in all honesty, I no longer believe that label to be either appropriate or useful.

“I do not want the Met to be distracted by the debate about institutional racism.

“That label no longer drives or motivates change as it once so clearly and dramatically did. We have changed but I do not hide the fact that there is much more to be done.”

There is not a consensus, however, that the police have managed to tackle the problems of ten years ago, and many maintain racism is endemic to the organisation.

“The police service have power over the individual,” vice president of the National Black Police Association, Tony Smikle, told politics.co.uk.

“Not only can the police detain you, but they can incarcerate you and in specific circumstances can take your life.

“It’s imperative that the practices in place are fair and equitable for all. If the police say that’s what we have in place today then I ask that they show me the evidence.

“If they are able to show me that evidence then I will say the police are not institutionally racist.”