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Cherry Groce's children speak out after legal win

SUPPORTED: (from left to right) Chuka Umunna MP, Lisa Lawrence, Lee Lawrence, Rosemary Spencer and Charmaine Laville outside Downing Street

THE SON of a woman shot by police officers in 1985 welcomed the decision to grant them legal aid last week.

The news followed a three-week campaign backed by more than 130,000 people who believed the family of Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce should be granted financial support.

Groce, whose shooting sparked the 1985 Brixton riots, was left paralysed from the waist down following a bungled police raid on September 28, 1985.
The mother-of-six, who spent most of her life in hospital, died in April 2011; the coroner established a link between the shooting and her subsequent death.

Lee Lawrence, who was 11 when he saw his mother gunned down in front of him at their south London home, said the legal aid victory meant they would have much needed representation in what is expected to be a complex case.

“This is the fight before the fight,” he told The Voice when the news broke last Friday. “We have been granted legal aid which means we can be active in our mother’s inquest which, to me, was not a very big ask.”

The family had been reluctant to go public with their battle and relive the grief they have endured.

Lawrence added: “We feel we should not have had to do all of this but unfortunately that is how the system works and that is what we had to do.”

The family spokesman said he had been speaking to journalists from Arise TV with MP Chuka Umunna when the news was broken to them.

He added: “Chuka was being questioned (by journalists) and it was my turn to answer when I got the phone call. I did not get a chance for the news to sink in.

“I’m still trying to digest the news but we know we have to be prepared to do whatever it takes. This time, we want to get a full understanding of what really happened to our mum.”

Following Groce’s shooting, Lawrence and his other young siblings were put into care while she recuperated.

Without a chance to absorb what had happened, they became full-time carers to their devoted mother who never dwelled on the incident but simply tried to get on with everyday life.

Musician Nathan Fagan Gayle, also known as Starboy Nathan, Groce’s nephew, told The Voice: “We have always been a close knit family. This is a victory for all of us. Our family is a big part of the community so it is a victory for the entire community.”

Umunna said that while he welcomed the news, the family’s story gave him cause for concern.

He said: “I am sad that in 2014 we are still having to campaign for equality before the law.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Legal aid funding for the family of Miss Groce at the forthcoming inquest into her death has been granted.

“Having considered the Legal Aid Agency’s request, ministers have decided to authorise funding for this case. We hope that this legal representation will help her family and those who knew Miss Groce find out more about the circumstances leading to her death.”

In its original rejection letter to the family, the Legal Aid Agency refused the funding citing there was no public interest in the case.

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