Lawrence report 10 years on: ‘Nothing has changed’

By Ian Dunt

Ten years on from the Macpherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, a report has been published by MPs claiming nothing has changed.

Assessing how far the police have reformed since the murder – which threw racism in the police force into sharp relief – the MPs found the use of stop-and-search on black communities had, in fact, increased.

The case was the same in DNA retention, with blacks disproportionately represented on the DNA database.

“While there is such blatantly disproportionate representation of particularly black people in the criminal justice system – in the use of stop and search or on the DNA database – there will continue to be damage to community relations which in turn undermine police work,” said Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs committee, which published the report.

“Any gains made by the use of stop and search, which we know can be very useful, risk being offset by its impact on community relations.”

The committee also expressed disappointment that the police service will not meet its target to employ seven per cent of officers from ethnic minority communities nationally by 2009, and that black and minority ethnic officers continue to experience difficulties in achieving promotion, as well as being more likely to be subject to disciplinary procedures.

“We are also particularly concerned at the discrimination which apparently persists within the force, in recruitment and promotion of black and minority ethnic officers,” Mr Vaz said.

“The police service must now focus its efforts on tackling these issues within its own workforce.”

There was some good news, however. MPs credited the police force with making “tremendous strides” into reforming the service, and fulfilling 67 of Sir William Macpherson’s 70 recommendations fully or in part.

Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in South London in an unprovoked racist attack on April 22nd, 1993.

The police were heavily criticised for their conduct of the investigation and no one has ever been convicted for the crime.

A Judicial Inquiry led by Macpherson was announced in July 1997. Its report, published on February 24th 1999, found the police investigation into Stephen’s murder was “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers”.