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Lawrence verdict: The view from Birmingham

VOICES: Derrick Campbell (left) and Gleen Reid

NEWS THAT Gary Dobson and David Norris have both been found guilty of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence has been greeted with relief by members of Birmingham’s black community.

But emotions were tinged with anger and sadness that it took the best part of two decades for Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence to finally have justice for their 18-year-old son.

Dr Derrick Campbell, chief executive of Race Equality Sandwell is demanding the two killers must serve a minimum of 35 years before any parole is considered.

He said: “This is a great day for justice and the Black community can feel vindicated by this verdict. The wound of a lost child can never be healed but I hope the long overdue outcome of this case can bring some peace to Stephen’s parents. However, I feel the Metropolitan Police are still in the dock for the incompetence they demonstrated. Institutional racism is still an issue to be tackled. I’m also appalled that David Norris’s mother clearly lied in court by making up an alibi claiming that her son was at home on the night of the murder.”

Beverley Thomas, the mother of Charlene Ellis, who was murdered along with Letisha Shakespeare on 2 January 2003 during a shooting at a New Year’s Day party in Birmingham, knows more than most about how Stephen Lawrence’s parents must be feeling.

“No verdict can ever bring back our children, but I hope this can bring some kind of closure for Stephen’s parents,” said Beverley, who sat through a five-month trial at Leicester Crown Court in 2005 when four men were found guilty of murdering her teenager daughter.

She added “Stephen’s parents have shown great dignity in the 18 long years this has taken and I hope now they can find peace.”

Maxie Hayles, who founded and chairs Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit (BRAMU) also spoke out.

“How can Stephen Lawrence’s parents or we the black community celebrate when only two of his killers have been convicted and we know there was at least six? It is a relief, yes, but only partial justice. I would like to see them both receive proper life sentences. I am proud of the way Doreen has not let the Metropolitan Police off the hook."

"The racism they practised is still there, but the verdict is a good reflection on society as a whole and it’s a good omen for the New Year. It reminds me of the quote from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the US Declaration of Independence – ‘I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice will not sleep forever.’”

Anti-gun and knife crime campaigner Gleen Reid, whose son Corey was shot dead 11 years ago, told The Voice.

“This is good news, but it shows there is still prejudice against black people in Britain today. Stephen’s mother should not have been forced to spend the past 18 years campaigning to get her son’s killers to court. But this outcome gives hope to other families who have still not had closure or justice over the death of a loved one.”

This is something close to Ms Reid’s heart as her own son’s killers have never been brought to justice, despite regular meetings with West Midlands Police that still continue today.

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