Doreen Lawrence, the mother of black murder victim Stephen Lawrence (whose case twenty years ago led to significant reforms in the policies of London’s Metropolitan Police) will join Britain’s House of Lords as a peer for the Labour Party. She will become Baroness Lawrence at the end of this week when a new list of peerages is announced by the Cabinet Office.
Stephen, then 18, was stabbed to death in a racially motivated attack by a gang of white youths while awaiting a bus in Eltham, South London in April 1993. It was not until January 2012 when two of the original suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted of his murder and jailed for up to 15 years. The case uncovered entrenched institutional racialism in the London police force and revealed a slow and incompetent probe by investigators, according to a public inquiry conducted by judge Sir William MacPherson in 1999.
“Doreen Lawrence is a hero of modern Britain,” the Labour Party said in a statement. “The strength and courage she has shown in her fight for justice for her son Stephen has had a profound impact on attitudes to racism and policing. Her campaigning has changed, and will continue to change, our country for the better. [Party leader] Ed Miliband believes voices like hers should always be heard in Parliament.” Earlier this year, Miliband, along with Prime Minister David Cameron and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe appeared at a memorial service to honor Stephen Lawrence.
The murder of Stephen Lawrence continues to haunt his mother as recent allegations have to come to light that the police had attempted to smear her and her family, leading Doreen to lament that there are "still elements of racism within the police.” Since her son’s death, Mrs. Lawrence, a special needs teacher, has received an Order of the British Empire (OBE), and founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to promote racial tolerance and provide a positive legacy for Stephen. She is also active in various human rights charities, including Liberty and Stop Hate UK.
Kamaljeet Jandu, a Labour Party official, commented on the legacy of the Stephen Lawrence murder and the subsequent campaign to bring his killers to justice. “What struck me during the campaign was that for a moment in British history, anti-racism had become a mainstream subject and not just limited to the Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities,” he wrote. “White people and institutions were moved to act. For example, the [right-wing] Daily Mail [newspaper], not necessarily a friend of ethnic minority people or working people, took the incredibly bold step to identify and use the word ‘guilty’ with those then allegedly and now – in some cases – proven responsible for Stephen’s murder.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.