This week it has been announced that the Metropolitan Police is closing down their investigations into the murder of of Stephen Lawrence, even though the Judge of the previous two prosecutions Colman Treacy made it very clear that there were two or three other people who needed to be brought to Court. This is a very sad outcome and inevitably it has upset Neville Lawrence. However very few people are in a position to know if this closure is correct or wrong, given the enormous challenge of finding people after 27 years. What we can all be certain about is that the murder of Stephen and the initial failure of the Metropolitan Police to deal with this led to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry by Lord Macpherson and it included the following recommendations out of a total of 70:
5. That principles and standards similar to those of the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) be applied to inspections of Police Services, in order to improve standards of achievement and quality of policing through regular inspection, public reporting, and informed independent advice.
7. That the Home Secretary and Police Authorities should seek to ensure that the membership of police authorities reflects so far as possible the cultural and ethnic mix of the communities which those authorities serve.
The inquiry was published in 1999, six years after the death of Stephen Lawrence and within five years a large number of Police services had formed the Independent Advisory Groups that still exist today. Sadly there are one or two that have not retained them or that did not adopt them. However they do provide a very positive way for decisions to be considered internally within the Police. One could hope that the Metropolitan Police have taken their IAG into discussion on their current intentions of closing down the investigation into Stephen Lawrence’s murder and also that they have discussed this with his family.
The second element listed above is perhaps one that needs a more thorough response from the Government as I have written before. Because Police Authorities are no longer in existence this call is something that should be considered very carefully by Police and Crime Commissioners in the work that they do and the people that help to hold them to account. Indeed perhaps it is time for some form of meaningful way of responding to this recommendation, given that the PCCs have been in post for nearly 8 years.
This tragic murder of course reflects a much wider set of issues in terms of how communities existed in the early 1990’s and it is vital as debates take place about Black Lives Matter that the life of Stephen Lawrence is one of the significant events that will act as a clear marker in our nation.