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Racial justice still absent 30 years after Stephen Lawrence’s murder, Dr Mallett says

22 April 2023


Floral tributes left on the Stephen Lawrence memorial in Well Hall Road, Eltham, in south London, in 2012

Floral tributes left on the Stephen Lawrence memorial in Well Hall Road, Eltham, in south London, in 2012

THIRTY years on from the murder of Stephen Lawrence, marked on Saturday, “the stark reality is that all are not equally safe on our streets — and all do not receive the justice that they deserve,” the Bishop of Croydon, Dr Rosemarie Mallett, has said.

Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old A-level student, was murdered by a gang of white men on 22 April 1993, in Eltham, south London, in an unprovoked racist attack. Since 2019, Stephen Lawrence Day has been held each year on 22 April.

An inquiry led by Sir William Macpherson concluded in 1999 that the police investigation into the murder had been “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”.

Dr Mallett, who is the diocesan lead on racial justice, said on Saturday: “Stephen Lawrence was a friend, a brother, a son, a neighbour, taken from us by hatred and racism. His family and community still feel his loss deeply, and our hearts still break for them — and for all families who today are missing children, friends, and family members because of racially motivated violence.”

Thirty years on from his death, however, “the stark reality is that all are not equally safe on our streets — and all do not receive the justice that they deserve”, she said. “Thirty years on, Stephen’s day is a stark reminder for us all of how far we still have to go.”

The recent review by Baroness Casey of the Metropolitan Police — which concluded that the force was “institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic” (Comment, 24 March) — “shows a concerning lack of progress in improving standards in our policing”, Dr Mallett said. “And we still hear every week the stories of those for whom racism is a daily oppression.”

The Church was not immune from these problems, she continued. “Here, in Southwark, we are working hard to address our own issues of inequality and injustice. We have committed ourselves to action and accountability through our Anti-Racism Charter and the ongoing work of our racial justice committee.”

She concluded by saying: “Hope means choosing not to give up, not to settle for less than that to which we are called. Our police can do better, our Church can do better, our communities can do better — our society can be better as long as we refuse to give up, as long as we choose hope and commit ourselves to building a better way.”

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, who chairs Southwark diocese’s racial justice committee, said: “When Stephen died, so many of us hoped that it would be a wake-up call for our society. We hoped that we would never again have to witness such tragic violence, nor such failings in our police force.

“Stephen’s death marked the beginning of a change in our society — a change that we are still living through. Progress always takes longer than we think it will, but as Christians we are called never to lose hope, and to always keep striving for a better world, with urgency and vigour.

“On this Stephen Lawrence Day, let us all take the opportunity to pray and reflect on Stephen’s life and legacy of both change and hope — and let us commit to building a future where our differences are celebrated and all are respected and valued.

“Our hearts go out to Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Stephen’s family with gratitude for all they continue to do to promote racial justice.”

Read more on Stephen Lawrence Day in this week’s Comment section here


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