Lawrence convictions should be treated as new evidence of a 'joint enterprise' say lawyers who changed the law on double jeopardy.

The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) is calling for the immediate prosecution of the three remaining men who are suspected of being involved in the racist murder of black teenager, Stephen Lawrence in 1993. The call follows the conviction and sentencing of David Norris and Gary Dobson who were both given life sentences at the Old Bailey today.

Norris was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years and three months and Dobson received 15 years and two months. Both were sentenced under old guidelines as if they were juveniles because they were under the age of 18 when the crime was committed. Dobson had previously been acquitted in 1996, following a private prosecution brought by the Lawrence family. It was only due to a change in the law on double jeopardy in 2005 that he was able to be tried again.

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SENTENCING

Jide Lanlehin, criminal barrister, commented:

"We welcome the sentences that have been passed and recognise that the judge's hands were tied in that respect. The sentences could have been much longer if judicial discretion, based on exceptional circumstances had been possible. Such a crime, if it had been committed by juveniles today, would have attracted a far longer sentence. Sadly, neither the sentencing guidelines nor legislation allowed for such discretion to be exercised."

JOINT ENTERPRISE: JAMIE ACOURT, NEIL ACOURT & LUKE KNIGHT

SBL Co-Chair, Peter Herbert OBE commented:

"The SBL is calling on the Crown Prosecution Service to undertake an immediate review of this case with a view to bringing prosecutions against the three remaining suspects. Our view is that the convictions of Norris and Dobson represent substantial new evidence of a joint enterprise in relation to all five men. Luke Knight and the Acourt brothers should be re-interviewed. They should not think that they are safe from the continuing call for justice.'

DOUBLE JEOPARDY

Rosemary Emodi, Vice Chair of the SBL commented:

"SBL made written and oral submissions to the Macpherson Inquiry in 1998, arguing that the law on double jeopardy should be reviewed. It was the one recommendation that specifically addressed the particular circumstances of the Lawrence family following the failed private prosecution in 1996. The wide-ranging impact of the Stephen Lawrence case is well documented. But it was the dignified and unwavering fight for justice, led by Doreen and Neville Lawrence that has been so compelling.

As lawyers, the SBL believes that our role is not just to practice the law. We must shape it, influence it and where necessary, change it. Dobson's conviction stands as an enduring testament to that belief.'

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The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) is the oldest organisation of African, Caribbean and Asian lawyers, jurists, academics and law students in the UK.  Founded in 1969 by the late Rudy Narayan and Sigbhat Kadric QC, the SBL exists to promote diversity within the legal profession and campaign to increase access to justice and quality legal services for ethnic minority and disadvantaged communities.

4th January 2012

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