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Sentamu pays tribute to Lawrence, 20 years after ‘senseless’ murder

22 April 2013

PA

Tribute: Doreen Lawrence during the memorial service for her son Stephen Lawrence, at St Martin-in-the-Fields, on Monday

Tribute: Doreen Lawrence during the memorial service for her son Stephen Lawrence, at St Martin-in-the-Fields, on Monday

THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, paid tribute on Monday to Stephen Lawrence, 20 years to the day after his murder by a gang of white youths in Eltham, South London, in an unprovoked racist attack.

Writing in the Yorkshire Post, Dr Sentamu imagined Mr Lawrence as he might have been today: "a mature intelligent man of 38, a successful architect, with a wife and children of whom he is very proud". Instead, Mr Lawrence's life was cut short by a "senseless, racist, and cruel attack", carried out by a "gang of white youths".

Dr Sentamu said that the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, for which he acted as an adviser when he was Bishop of Stepney, had shown "that the Lawrence family had been ill-served by our justice system. The 'canteen and occupational culture' of the Metropolitan Police Service had resulted in what the Inquiry described as 'institutional racism', a concept which was clearly discernible in the investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence."

Another positive outcome of the inquiry, Dr Sentamu said, was the proposal that the 'double-jeopardy' rule be set aside in the case of murder, if fresh and viable evidence, which could not have been found at the time of the trial, later came to light." This had resulted in the retrials and convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris ( News, 6 January 2012). "The force of justice may be slow, but it is sure," he said.

Dr Sentamu continued: "The elimination of racism remains a serious task for all of us. For racism is like an invidious and devastating cancer in society, attacking community structures and all its components.

"We may congratulate ourselves that it has been eradicated in one place and we can relax, but sadly it often turns up somewhere else, with slightly different characteristics - this time perhaps focused on asylum seekers, or Eastern European workers. Wherever it is found it must be fought."

A memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on Monday, was attended by the Prime Minister; the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband; and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe."

Mr Cameron said on Monday: "The senseless killing of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 was a tragedy. It was also a moment that sparked monumental change in our society - change that has been brought about by the tireless efforts of Stephen's family in challenging the police, Government, and society to examine themselves and ask difficult questions.

"I believe that many of those questions have been answered: from improved community relations to more accountability in policing. Much has been achieved, but we know that more still needs to be done. We owe this to the memory of Stephen."

The full article by Dr Sentamu can be read here.

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