Stephen Lawrence's mother attends service to mark 20 years since murder

Party leaders join Doreen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church as Labour calls for second Macpherson-style inquiry

The mother of the black murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has attended a service to mark the 20th anniversary of his killing.

Doreen Lawrence was joined at the service at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in central London by the three main party leaders, her surviving children and supporters of the charitable trust set up in Stephen's name to inspire achievement.

Stephen was stabbed to death by a racist gang of five at a bus stop in south-east London in 1993. Last year Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted of his murder.

The Macpherson inquiry was held in 1998 into police failings in the Stephen Lawrence case. Sir William Macpherson, a retired high court judge, made a raft of recommendations for institutions and the police, whom he found had been institutionally racist. Witnesses, who included the then Met commissioner, gave evidence on oath and the force handed over thousands of documents.

In an interview Mrs Lawrence declined to side with police chiefs who say the service has changed in the way it treats ethnic minorities in Britain. "I can't say they definitely have changed. I don't think anybody knows apart from those who are working inside," she said.

"There are those who are trying their best to make a difference, but does it actually feed down to the officer on the beat who actually carries out the work? You don't know. To say that the Met has changed, you can only hope."

Labour used the anniversary of the murder to call for a second Macpherson-style inquiry to review police progress in eliminating racism in the ranks. They want someone with stature to carry out the review who would decide how wide-ranging their powers needed to be.

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said police needed to do more to recruit and keep ethnic minority officers and on stop and search, which targets black people more than white.

Macpherson called on police to resemble the communities they serve. Despite a 10-year deadline to have the same number of ethnic minority officers in the ranks as in the populations they serve, the target was missed and police are thousands of officers short.

The Metropolitan Black Police Association says the force is still "institutionally racist", despite its bosses saying it has changed so much that the label does not apply.

Cooper said a so-called "Macpherson two" was needed. "Police recruitment and retention from ethnic minority communities remains a significant problem, and more needs to be done on the police's relationship with some communities, and on issues such as stop and search," she said.

"It is time for a proper public review of progress in implementing Macpherson's original recommendations, and wider issues for police forces and the criminal justice system across the country to ensure that racism is eliminated."

The Conservatives opposed setting up the Macpherson inquiry, and Labour did so soon after taking power in 1997.

Speaking after the memorial service, the prime minister, David Cameron, said: "A change obviously has taken place since that dreadful murder 20 years ago, a change in policing. But perhaps as important is the change in culture, of just not accepting racism in our country.

"We have made huge steps forward on that front, but there is always more that needs to be done," he told the BBC.

Mrs Lawrence said the trust she established in Stephen's name helped ease her pain. "I believe that Stephen's life had value. His life is giving life to other young children," she said.

"For me there are times when you're angry about certain things, but then you always have to look at the positive. You always have to look forward, because if you don't look forward then life just stands still."


Vikram Dodd

The GuardianTramp

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