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Black prisoners angry at sentencing of Lawrence killers

QUESTIONS: Black prisoners have voiced concerns about the sentencing of Stephen Lawrence's killers

THE SENTENCES handed down to the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence has left black prisoners feeling a sense of injustice.

Days after David Norris, 35 and Gary Dobson, 36, were jailed for the 1993 murder of the black teen, prison and family mediator, Charlotte Francis, carried out a survey in prisons and youth clubs in London and Hertfordshire to gauge the views of youngsters.

In a series of interviews with male and female prisoners Francis’ findings showed black inmates felt they were handed harsher sentences for less serious crimes because of their race.

Many of the 30 people, aged between 15 -30, interviewed at prisons including The Mount, and Vinney Green, said they were simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time” yet they had been given longer sentences than both Norris and Dobson, who were sentenced to 14 and 15 years respectively.

“What they have said to me is, ‘why is it when I was 14 and I wasn’t the actual person that committed the crime that I was given life with the person who did the crime?’ Francis said.

She continued: “There are hundreds of black boys in prison doing life some without view of parole who have not done as much as these men have done.”

STUDY: Charlotte Francis

Although Norris and Dobson were in their 30s when they were found guilty of Stephen Lawrence’s murder, their sentences reflected their ages, 16 and 17 respectively, at the time of the crime.

Francis, who founded Redevelopment Agency in 2005 to help prisoners and their families understand the law and their rights, decided it was a necessary business venture because of “the lack of information made accessible for people.”

“The message should be to black people now is, ‘if Doreen and Neville can fight for their own so can all of we’” said Francis, who is also the vice chairwoman of BME (black and minority and ethnic group) which is affiliated with the Metropolitan Housing Trust in north London.

Francis, whose son was found guilty of murder when he was 14 and subsequently sentenced to life in prison – although, she maintains, he acted in self defence after he was attacked by a gang of youths, said it was her mission to help others who found themselves in the same position.

“My aim is to share information and make people more informed about things that are happening in the community and that’s something I believe we all need to do.”

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