CALL: Peter Herbert
LEGAL EXPERTS are calling for charges to be brought against the men suspected of taking part in the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
On the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) website, co-chair Peter Herbert OBE has called on the Crown Prosecution Service for an immediate review of the case and for the alleged remaining suspects to be re-interviewed.
Herbert added: “They should not think that they are safe from the continuing call for justice.”
Earlier this month, Gary Dobson and David Norris were handed life sentences for killing the 18-year-old student in April 1993.
Under old guidelines, Dobson and Norris were sentenced as juveniles because they were under the age of 18 at the time of the murder.
In criminal law, the Joint Enterprise rule is used to charge several people with a crime if they conspired or cooperated in the offence.
The rule has been used successfully to secure convictions against gang members and young offenders.
But while it is yet to be proved who wielded the knife that fatally stabbed Stephen, the SBL believes the Joint Enterprise clause should be used to convict the men who took part in Stephen’s murder.
Claudia Webbe, founder and chair of Operation Trident’s Independent Advisory Group said she supported the SBL’s call, but stressed that the real evidence lies within the community.
Webbe said: “The SBL make a valid point and Joint Enterprise should be pursued as vigorously as the way in which the police pursue largely black young men around this issue.
“There are many people other than [Dobson and Norris] that know what happened and are harbouring information. They need to come forward, share what they know.
“We cannot wait another 18 years for full justice in this case.”
The change in double jeopardy laws in 2005 meant that Dobson could be tried again for Stephen’s murder, after new forensic evidence was discovered.
He had previously been acquitted after a private prosecution, brought by the Lawrence family, collapsed in 1996.
But to bring charges against someone who has been previously acquitted of a serious crime, the Court of Appeal must agree to quash the original acquittal if “new and compelling” evidence emerges.
The Director of Public Prosecutions must also approve a retrial.
Julian Young, a criminal defence lawyer at Julian Young and Co in central London told The Voice: “The law requires new and compelling evidence that was not available at the time of the trial. It might be, for example, as a result of techniques that did not previously exist.”
He said of the SBL’s demand, “Morally, it’s a nice call, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that there are principles involved before you can charge anyone.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed to The Voice that although there are no new leads, they have no plans to disband the team investigating Stephen Lawrence’s murder.
A spokesperson said: “We remain deeply frustrated and disappointed that we have been unable to see any other individuals involved in Stephen’s murder face justice.
“We remain committed to this aim and any new leads that come to light in the future will be thoroughly investigated.”