Moment that mattered: Gary Dobson and David Norris are found guilty of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993
I was at the court when the judge was doing the summing up of the trial. I remember him quite clearly stating that if the jury wanted to see the covert footage of the suspects again, they would first have to agree that the DNA evidence was sound. On the Friday the jury asked to see the footage. This was the biggest indication that there was going to be a guilty verdict. It was a great feeling to see two of the six found guilty, but it is only a partial victory.
When the verdict was being read, all I was feeling was that it was about time. The identity of those who had murdered Steve and tried to kill me had been an open secret since the attack. On a personal level it made the fight all worth it. The brutality, the false charges and the unprofessional behaviour from the police were all worth it.
After the verdict came through, the atmosphere in London was of great relief. I think among the police, the government and those that fight for justice every day there was a fear that if those men had been found not guilty, there could have been more civil disturbances in Britain.
I feel that the verdict was inspiring for many other families to continue to keep up the fight for justice. The cogs of our justice system can sometimes take a long while to turn but you must never give up. I also believe it has inspired many other senior officers to go back and look at investigations that they have been a part of that remain unsolved. It was, in a sense, just another guilty verdict at the Old Bailey. Its prominence came from the nature of the case and the brutality of the attack. The Lawrence Inquiry had already started bringing about the changes from the police, government and media that I had hoped for.
With regards to the media, apart from The Spectator [which was prosecuted for breaking a court order by publishing an article by Rod Liddle claiming the defendants would not receive a fair trial], I don’t think there was a problem with how they handled the story. Their response to the verdict was pretty much expected. [Daily Mail editor] Paul Dacre was very brave to have printed the ‘Murderers’ headline back in 1997 – not just because he could have been sued by the suspects, but also because he could have scuppered any future trial. The media will always be the media. We sometimes find it hard living with them but it’s also hard trying to live without them. But at the end of the day, it was hard work and determination from a number of police officers that helped to secure these guilty verdicts.
Looking back at the conviction, it was a success for the police and criminal justice system, but when you take into account the previous failures around the earlier investigations it was also a necessity. But to say the convictions were inevitable takes away the fact that these men were found guilty by a jury of their peers, on the evidence presented during their trial.
Duwayne Brooks is a councillor in Lewisham.
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