If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Justice? Maybe, but at what cost?

I am deeply uneasy about the outcome of the latest Stephen Lawrence trial.

The manipulation of the Lawrence family by a host of vested interests, from Imran Khan making his name as a 'human rights' lawyer, to the involvement of various members of the racism industry, which turned a grieving couple into footsoldiers for the Left. And much as I try to sympathise with her loss, I found Doreen Lawrence's statement to the press after the trial rather graceless and confrontational.

The results of the McPherson Inquiry, which branded the police for evermore as 'institutionally racist' and introduced a concept that which is both illogical and destructive, and yet suits the climate of the times.

The publication on national television of covert videotapes showing the accused behaving in a racist and violent manner in their own homes (is it even legal to do this?) which, while causing revulsion in anyone who saw it, was not criminal in itself, and was not evidence of their guilt or innocence, and yet virtually ensured that they could never have a fair trial in this country.

The abandoning of the ancient rule of double jeopardy, which has ensured for around 800 years that the state could not oppress a person by prosecuting them over and over again for the same offence. I think natural justice demands that this is justified if substantial new evidence comes to light that was not available at the original trial, but it seems here that the 'new evidence' was minimal at best, and making the change retrospective so that the Lawrence murder was specifically included looks highly manipulative to me.

The craven and cringing response of the Police to any criticism of their actions, when a robust defence would have been warranted - although aspects of the inquiry were incompetent, I have seen nothing to suggest it was anything worse than that - and would have left the Met with some self-respect. But listening to Cressida Dick on the radio last night, apologising humbly and 'admitting errors' like some Soviet prisoner, and then hearing someone (Trevor Phillips?) praising her for her 'humility' and 'ability to learn from her mistakes' (I paraphrase) was sickening.

As usual, others have articulated this far better than I can, so I urge you to go and read possibly the best post on the subject that I have read, and one which sums up my unease better than I can.
That they are guilty, there is little doubt – yet I am left with uncomfortable feelings surrounding this case, which feels more like a political show trial than an unbiased search for justice.


  1. But relatively recent improvements in the identification & collection of scientific evidence, not available at the time of the original trial, finally enabled a conviction.

    That, surely, has served the cause of 'justice'.

  2. The worst of it was hearing Jack Straw crowing on about how clever he was setting up some enquiry or other.

    It's just a real pity that human beings cannot be a little nicer to each other - 5 moronic thugs attacking a beautiful son - why?

  3. Joe, I'm not qualified (either by training or being part of the investigation) to comment on the quality of the forensics, although I have seen plenty of material that says it is not as clear-cut as it might be, mainly due to poor procedure by the police in the first few days. But how could anyone who saw those videoclips on the TV not be influenced by them? Most of the jury must have been sitting there thinking 'nasty racist', and that's hardly good for a fair trial. I think a fair trial and a bulletproof conviction were what SL deserved.

    Nikos, Jack Straw is a twat and no returns. I'd agree with your sentiments, though. I fail to see what anyone gets out of this kind of nastiness. Murder in the course of robbery I can understand, if not forgive. But murder because someone looks different? Some people are mentally still in the playground. Of course, knowing that the worst that will happen if you kill someone in cold blood is a few years in a comfy prison doesn't help matters.

  4. "But relatively recent improvements in the identification & collection of scientific evidence..."

    Pity those were undermined by so many admissions of sloppy handling of the evidence, then...

  5. That the two defendants are guilty as charged is, of course, undeniable. They are two evil racists who have got what was coming to them... eventually. Anyone who has viewed their most recent police interviews would conclude that. They were given every opportunity to explain themselves, but went 'No Comment'. In doing so they left themselves open to permitting a court to draw an inference from their refusal or failure to answer reasonable questions put to them in interview. It is simply not good enough to attempt to rubbish the forensic evidence within the trial. Blood and fibres from the victim was on them. How?? They lied about their association and were caught out. Norris lied about going out that night and was caught out. They were involved in other events of a similar nature. That they harboured violent racist feelings is beyond doubt. One of them was convicted for racially abusing an off duty police officer, with one of the three other potential future defendants. The police bungled the original investigation. Not maliciously, but because some of those involved were incompetent. Whatever else, the case was a watershed. Perhaps some good has come from the death of that poor young man, if it meant that the police had to look hard at themselves and make themselves accountable to the public they serve. The fight against racism has been a constant theme for my entire service and it is greatly welcomed by the majority of officers. I don't subscribe to the view that the loss of the protection of the double jeopardy rule is a bad thing because the burden of proof that the police would need to resurect a previously tried case is very high. Name me another case where the defendant(s) have been tried again. I can only think of one - that of Mario Celaire, so this will not open the floodgates. Justice demanded that Dobson and Norris be tried again for this offence, because with the advance of technology there was now evidence to show that they had a case to answer. I think that this was the right thing to do. I think that the majority of right thinking people would say the same. Finally, the Metropolitan Police got their men, not all of them, but enough of them to give the poor family of the victim some measure of closure, and sufficient to disturb the sleep patterns of the other guilty individuals.

  6. Anon, I thank you for taking the time and trouble to comment in such detail. Your knowledge of the case is clearly superior to mine, and I take all of your points. To be fair, I know a couple of serving coppers and they are decent and tolerant individuals (one I know who is prejudiced against virtually everything left the service long ago). My view, from a long way away, is that the police try their best to get it right, and do so most of the time. Maybe mistakes were made, and maybe there needed to be a change in ethos for some individuals, but I didn't like to see the Met grovelling quite so humbly. They did a lot right (and Anna's post that I referenced mentions this) and they should have stood up and been proud of that.

    The double jeopardy thing is, again, probably the right move at a time when technology is developing so fast. My understanding is that these has to be significant new evidence before a prosecution can be repeated, and the bar for this is set quite high. If so, I think that's probably a reasonable compromise. But that change was made at a time when the current government were busy slinging out as many 'relics' of the British establishment as they could (HoL reform, dumping the Lord Chancellor and so on) and at the time it seemed a worrying precedent.

    I assume from your comment that you are a serving officer, and I am grateful that you chose to contribute to the post. A shame you chose to comment anonymously, but I can understand why.

  7. Great post Richard. I agree with most of what you say but disagree with Anon. Most of what has gone on has seemed almost like a witch hunt, and from the ubiquitous crowing today could well end in a lynching (will these to get 24hr protective custody?) Anon himself is practically saying they're guilty because they are racist! Duwayne Brooks is/was equally racist but got 100 grand.

  8. Wait for the appeal, could that film be used as justification?

  9. Wouldn't surprise me at all. And, much as I despise their nasty attitudes, they would have some justification in doing so.

  10. 2 nasty men rightly in gaol and I hope the other three go down too, that said, I don't agree that because a murder is 'racist' it makes it any worse than any other murder.

    This particular case got The Establishments knickers in a twist (Macphearson) and they were determined to get their men just to prove how unracist they all are, albeit twenty years late; in much the same way that they were determined to see Ronnie Biggs an old man in gaol not because he stole some money but because he embarrassed The State, twice.

  11. Agreed. The judge added to the sentence because of the racist nature of the offence. I can't see how that works. Murder is the worst crime of all, because there is no way of compensating the victim, but I can't see how the intention behind the crime makes some murders worse than others. Dead is dead.

  12. If the police take two weeks to arrest and properly search the houses of people that a number of informants had pointed to as very likely culprits, it was always going to be a mess. It is still a mess. It will remain a mess. I am glad I wasn't on the jury.

  13. Me too - that must have been a tough one.


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