Incredibly, it’s 20 years on 22nd April since Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in Eltham. This breath-taking piece by Jemima Kiss for The Guardian brought that day as clearly as if it were yesterday. Please read it.
The devastating results of his death ricocheted out beyond his brave, strong, dignified family to the heart of the nation’s consciousness. It shook up and subsequently revolutionised our at the time rotten police force, and did the same to the very foundations of the British justice system, leading to the double jeopardy law being scrapped specifically to allow Dobson and Norris to be retried for the crime that for the preceding almost two decades everyone had known they had committed.
A terrible tragedy leading to a terrible miscarriage of justice out of which due to the strength, conviction and tenacity of, in the main, Stephen’s incredible mother Doreen, in many ways this country is transformed. Last summer she was the Olympic Torchbearer who brought tears to my eyes – it was so right that she should play that role, and so good to see her achievements acknowledged. She took her personal grief and need to see justice for her son much further than the vast majority of people, myself included.
I was living in South-East London at the time of Stephen’s murder, and I was pretty much exactly his age. It seemed to me impossible that someone who I could have been at school with, met in the pub, wherever, could have had his life cut short in what was literally the blink of an eye, at the whim of a group of sick racists. At 18 you’re so alive, and the violent ceasing of that state is unthinkable as you are living in it. This goes a long way to explaining why 18-year-olds can tend to the kamikaze, so much so that it’s an expected (while feared by parents) stage of fighting through to adulthood. But murder, callous deliberate ending of that life’s potential – takes it to another level of unthinkable.
I know that amongst my immediate peers there is still a clear memory of 22nd April 1993, and an ongoing genuine outrage at the way the Lawrence family were consistently denied their right for justice for their son. Just reading Facebook around the 2012 trial and conviction of Dobson and Norris showed the passion we all still feel that justice must be done. And we all cheered the bullish statement following their conviction, aimed at the three, equally guilty, still at large: We are coming for you.
Stephen Lawrence’s tragic murder is woven into the fabric of my teenage memories, a part of me. I pray that full justice will be done and that I and all the other peripheral teenage observers I was surrounded by at the time, who genuinely and truly care, will see the right outcome, at last, for the Lawrence family in their fight. To show your support here’s a link to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.