NOT FORGOTTEN: Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence pictured here in 1995
DOREEN LAWRENCE is a woman who has barely paused for breath over the past two decades.
From the day her son Stephen was murdered on April 22, 1993, in a racist attack in Eltham, southeast London, she and her family have worked tirelessly to put his killers behind bars.
Along the way, their fight for justice exposed discrimination within the British justice system and, as a result, brought about important changes to race relations and equality in Britain.
This time last year, Gary dobson and David morris were found guilty of killing the 18-year-old at the Old Bailey thanks to the emergence of new evidence, but there are others out there with Stephen’s blood on their hands.
In an interview last week, his mother vowed to catch every person who had a hand in his death.
“We’re still fighting to make sure we get all of them,” Lawrence said. “Yes, we have two, but we want to get them all.”
She added: “I have often thought about how much I’d like not to have to do this anymore. I know that, realistically, I can’t carry on forever.
“I never thought we would see anybody go to prison for Stephen’s murder and if we hadn’t pushed it, I really believe it would never have happened. We had to fight so hard. We shouldn’t have had to, but that’s the reality.”
DETERMINED: Doreen Lawrence has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of her son (Pic credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire)
It is a poignant year for the Lawrence family, as 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Stephen’s death.
The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust – the charity set up by Doreen and Neville Lawrence in 1998 to honour his memory – has organised a series of events throughout the year to raise awareness.
It includes a memorial concert featuring big name artists and a memorial service in April – the month Stephen was murdered – as well as a criminal justice lecture and a fundraising gala ball.
City law firm Freshfields has also partnered with the trust on an initiative to help talented but disadvantaged young people gain access to top UK companies, particularly in the legal sector.
Lawrence, who was a flagbearer at the London 2012 opening ceremony, said: “It is my hope to get the trust in a position where it is sustainable and successful and continues to do the work we all want to see it do to make a difference to the lives of young people.
“If I can do that, then I think I will finally be able to take a step back. I will have to stop one day, but the trust doesn’t have to,” she said.
But while Stephen’s name and legacy carries significant weight, Lawrence realises that taking her foot off the gas even for a second would allow the government, the Met Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to forget about the past.
Lawrence said: “Almost immediately after the trial finished, I felt a sense that many people thought the fight for justice was over. It isn’t.”
In fact, the campaigner and Richard Stone OBE, an advisor to the Macpherson Inquiry, recently wrote to PM David Cameron, deputy PM Nick Clegg and other party leaders expressing concerns over their commitment to race and equality issues.
Lawrence raised the alarm over a review into the public sector equality duties – a measure implemented following the Macpherson Inquiry set up in Stephen’s name.
The duty requires authorities to assess the potential impact on equalities in any decision or policy they undertake – replaced separate duties on race gender, disability in 2010 but even that is now at risk of being watered down, Lawrence fears.
The duty’s primary purpose “was to hold up a mirror, question their actions, address institutional discrimination, foster good relations and advance equality of opportunity,” the letter stated.
In their response, Cameron and Clegg said they “cared a great deal about making sure our policies never marginalise or discriminate”.
They added: “We recognise how important it is to ensure the legacy of Stephen’s murder and Lord Macpherson’s report will never be lost. That legacy was to change fundamentally and forever the way we think about race in this country.
“We know you have worked tirelessly to drive these improvements and are extremely grateful to you for your work. We also want to reiterate the government’s commitment to equal treatment and equal opportunity.”
Lawrence told The Voice: “We know they’re listening, but whether they act is another matter. It’s important that we protect the progress we have made.”
That attitude also applies to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust which, like others in the voluntary sector, is struggling financially despite its high-profile supporters.
“The 20th anniversary is a time for reflection, but also for looking ahead. The work the trust does is not just for Stephen, but for all of our families.”
For more information about the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust’s SL20 campaign visit www.stephenlawrence.org.uk