Decision not to charge Stephen Lawrence officers ‘unjustifiable’

Decision not to charge Stephen Lawrence officers ‘unjustifiable’

The mother of Stephen Lawrence is “bewildered, disappointed and angry” at an upheld decision not to charge four officers involved in the original bungled investigation into her son’s murder.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence said the decision marked “a new low” in how her family has been treated by the criminal justice system, and means that no police officer will ever take responsibility for the failures in the case.

Stephen was murdered by a gang of racists in Eltham, south east London in April 1993 as he went to catch a bus with his friend Duwayne Brooks, and only two of his five or six killers have been brought to justice.

The original police investigation into his death was marred by institutional racism in the Met, incompetence and alleged corruption.

Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a racist gang as he went to catch a bus home in 1993 (Family handout/PA)

In later years it emerged that undercover police officers had spied on campaigners supporting the Lawrence family in their fight for justice, and last year the BBC revealed further failures linked to a sixth suspect in the case, Matthew White.

In a statement on Tuesday following the Crown Prosecution Service decision, Baroness Lawrence said: “Today’s decision by the CPS marks a new low in the way the criminal justice has treated me and my family.

“The decision of the CPS not to prosecute the senior officers who were involved in the investigation of my son’s case is unjustifiable. The reviewed decision, issued today, makes not a single mention of racism.

“Everyone now accepts that institutional racism was at the heart of the first investigation and yet, no consideration has been given to how it impacted the decision making process. It clearly did.

“How can racism not be part of and at the forefront of the CPS’s decision on Stephen’s case? This is unforgivable.”

Gary Dobson (left) and David Norris.
Gary Dobson (left) and David Norris who were jailed for Stephen’s murder at the Old Bailey in 2012 (CPS/PA)

She criticised the review for only considering failures in the first few weeks after the murder, when blunders had continued “well into 1994”.

Last year a BBC investigation claimed that White, who died aged 50 in 2021, had a central role in the attack on Stephen, running ahead of the others towards the teenager.

His stepfather, Jack Severs, who died in 2020, told a police officer not involved in the case that White had admitted being present that night.

But Mr Severs was misidentified by the murder investigation team because White had two different stepfathers – a failure the Met called a “significant and regrettable error”.

It was 20 years before Mr Severs was spoken to by a detective investigating the murder, Clive Driscoll, the officer who finally brought Gary Dobson and David Norris to justice nearly two decades after they murdered Stephen.

The Met said that White was arrested twice but there was not enough evidence to charge him.

Referring to the mistakes over White, Baroness Lawrence said: “How can such an obvious failure not be part of the case that the CPS released today?

“The only conclusion I draw is that the IOPC and NCA carried out a shallow inquiry looking only at matters in the public domain and gave too much credence to the retired officers.

“The decision today means – as things stand – that not a single officer will ever be held responsible in any way shape or form for the obvious and unforgivable failings in Stephen’s case.

“I am bewildered, disappointed, and angry at the decision. I am sure the public will be too.”

The CPS said it would not be bringing criminal charges against four Metropolitan Police officers involved in the case after an “extensive review” which reconsidered whether they had committed offences of misconduct in public office.

The decision follows a request under the Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) scheme and was carried out by a prosecutor who was independent of the original review.

It represents a final decision by the CPS.

Mr Brooks questioned the transparency of the system, writing on X, formerly Twitter: “As someone affected by these senior officers’ decision-making skills, I have no idea whether today’s decision or the original decision by the CPS is a credible one, as I have not seen the report.”

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS’s Special Crime Division, said: “Following our decision in July 2023 not to bring criminal charges against four police officers involved in the initial six weeks of the investigation into Stephen’s murder, we received a request to review the decision under the Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) scheme.

“An extensive review of that decision, which involved an independent prosecutor re-examining a substantial amount of evidence and material in the case, has now been completed.

“Offences of misconduct in public office were reconsidered, but the review upheld the original decision not to bring any criminal charges against the four officers in the case.

“We understand this news will be extremely disappointing for Stephen’s family and friends, and the CPS has offered to meet with close family members to explain our reasoning in further detail.”