Will Parliament reflect the death of Stephen Lawrence?

Two days ago on Saturday a significant number of people reflected on the murder of Stephen Lawrence that took place 30 years ago and how his murder was not resolved for many years. The responses that have emerged since his murder have become very significant in a range of groups. The Parliament website includes many reflections of his death which includes the text that

“Stephen Lawrence was murdered on 22 April 1993 in an unprovoked racist knife attack in Eltham, South London. The Inquiry into his murder led by the late Sir William Macpherson uncovered major failings in the police investigation and in the way Stephen Lawrence’s family and his friend Duwayne Brooks were treated.”

One of the important proposals that Sir William Macpherson set out back in 1999 after he reviewed what had taken place was

“That in creating strategies under the provisions of the Crime & Disorder Act or otherwise Police Services, local Government and relevant agencies should specifically consider implementing community and local initiatives aimed at promoting cultural diversity and addressing racism and the need for focused, consistent support for such initiatives”

I was invited to join the Sussex Police Independent Advisory Group in 2004 which was a response from the Macpherson proposal. One of my colleagues who has recently retired from the Police commented in LinkedIn a few days ago

“In his memory we can make a difference for others. I’m going to an event in London today where I know I will feel informed, inspired, and at times uncomfortable – this has to happen for us to make the changes we need to see.”

Along with the Police forces that have responded over many years another group that focuses on this theme is Churches. One of the CofE Bishop’s John Sentamu worked with William Macpherson to resolve the situation of Stephen Lawrence and many churches focus on this every year.  Let us hope that today some MPs in parliament will raise the subject of the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence 30 years ago and the positive aspects that have arisen following his murder. As it happens a small number of our local MPs have responded to his death in the past and they should be appreciated for responding to him. Sadly, only two of our current Sussex MPs have spoken about the murder. Peter Bottomley is the MP who has spoken most extensively partly because he was the MP for Eltham and Woolwich West from 1975 to 1997 so Stephen was in his constituency. When he was murdered in 1993 Peter spoke about it a few weeks later 

“When one of my constituents, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered recently, I would have liked to have had the chance to raise in the House the unprovoked racial attack which resulted in the murder of a fine young man who was black. There may be another occasion when I can do that, but I wish to say to his family that issues relating to terrorism are no more important than the incident which caused them such suffering.”

In the following April he stated

“We could perhaps learn more from some parts of our immigrant communities, Chinese or Asian or people from the Caribbean such as Neville and Doreen Lawrence, the parents of Stephen Lawrence who was tragically murdered in my constituency. If people like that could have five minutes on television every week to explain how they are bringing their children up, and what sort of standards they want for them, it would be helpful.”

The next time he spoke about Stephen was in 2001 when he had become the MP for Worthing West and he has spoken about the situation many times including a reference to Boris Johnson in 2020 when he explained that

“We should remember that John Sentamu was tortured in Uganda, served in Tulse Hill, Stepney and Birmingham as well as York, and was a critical adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.”

This reference explains why the Churches have been very aware of the death of Stephen Lawrence and indeed they have asked for the community to respond to this tragic case. Along with the very significant comments from Peter Bottomley the only other existing Sussex MP who has spoken about Stephen Lawrence is Caroline Lucas who is the MP for Brighton Pavilion and who raised a couple of questions in 2014 that were calling for a report that was required. There have been some other MPs who have raised the theme when they were involved in Parliament. Nick Herbert was the MP for Arundel and South Downs and he was a Minister and raised it in 2014. Back in 2008 Norman Baker who was the MP for Lewes raised a question. Along with our local MPs there have also been two of our local members of the House of Lords. Steve Bassam who is the Lord of Brighton has spoken many times on the theme of Stephen Lawrence when the Labour Party was the Government. He first raised it in 1990 and he was involved in several debates in the following few years. Also the Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb raised the subject three years ago focusing on the vital aspects of the report from William Macpherson. It will be interesting to find out if any of the Sussex MPs will speak this week focussing on what took place 30 years ago on Saturday.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
This entry was posted in Church Teaching, Parliament and Democracy, Policing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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