It has long been said that justice delayed is justice denied, yet it would be hard to find anyone to agree with this sentiment over the convictions of David Norris and Gary Dobson for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, stabbed to death 18 years ago on 22 April 1993 in southeast London while standing at a bus stop for no other reason than he was black with the misfortune to be standing in that particular place at that particular time.
Justice has been served but only partially with these convictions. Three other members of the gang remain at large with as yet no moves to prosecute them for lack of suitable evidence. The names of the three are brothers Jamie and Neil Acourt and Luke Knight.
The role of the Metropolitan Police in ensuring that no convictions took place for 18 long and excruciating years for the Lawrence family should not be forgotten. Both Neville and Doreen Lawrence have been justly praised for their dogged determination and dignity in campaigning ceaselessly for justice for their son. However the fact they've had to is an indictment of the Met Police and the British justice system.
The criticism levelled at the police over their initial investigation into Stephen's murder by Doreen Lawrence outside the Old Bailey in London was that of a mother denied the time and space to grieve as a result of police negligence in their handling of the case, forcing her as a consequence to spend 18 years campaigning for justice for her son. It is chilling to consider that if Stephen Lawrence's parents had been filled with even a scintilla less of the determination that drove them on there is every possibility that these convictions would never have come to pass.
Institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police predates the Lawrence case and has lived on after it. To be a young black or Muslim male in London today means that you are five times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. This is unacceptable, especially when the reality is that as a young black or Asian male living in London you are more likely to be a victim of crime than a criminal.
The riots that erupted in London during the summer, before spreading to other towns and cities, brought with them echoes of the anti police riots that afflicted British cities during the 1980s, when Thatcher's declaration that there was no such thing as society exploded in her face as tensions between the police and minority communities reached breaking point.
The authorities, the government and the police were quick to dismiss these latest riots as having any connection to similar tensions, but there is no doubt that the catalyst was the fatal shooting by the police of Mark Duggan, a 29 year old black man, in Tottenham. There is also no doubt that a high level of tension still exists between black youths and the police onLondon's inner city estates. This tension is compounded by the socioeconomic reality that in today's austerityBritaina young black man is far more likely to be unemployed and not in higher education than his white counterpart.
Major advances in forensic science led to the breakthrough in the Stephen Lawrence case, ultimately leading to the convictions of Dobson and Norris. However, culturally no comparable major advances in the prevalence of racist attitudes can be claimed. At a time when the current captain of the England football team is facing criminal charges for racist abuse on the pitch, a time when a leading premiership club saw fit to publicly defend one of its players just before he was found guilty of racially abusing an opposing player by the FA, and when the EDL continue to try and foment race hate up and down the country, we are in denial as a society if we think that racism in Britain is no longer as prevalent as it was a generation ago.
Finally, outside the Old Bailey, after Doreen Lawrence read out her emotional statement in response to the convictions, and after a statement from Neville Lawrence was read out by his lawyer, a statement from the Met Police was read out by acting deputy Cressida Dick.
Cressida Dick was the police officer in command of the covert police operation which led to the fatal shooting of an innocent Brazilian man, Jean Charles De Menezes, at Stockwell tube station back in 2005. Not only did Dick retain her job, since the operation she's been twice promoted by the Met. At a subsequent inquest into the death of the 27 year old Brazilian, who was shot seven times in the head, Dick claimed under questioning that "no one was to blame".
Follow John Wight on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnwight1