Stephen Lawrence’s legacy honoured at memorial 30 years after his racist murder

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Stephen Lawrence’s mother said his “story remains as important and relevant as ever” as a memorial service was held in central London to mark the 30th anniversary of the teenager’s death.

The murder victim’s family gathered for the anniversary at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

Sir Keir made a short speech and read a poem by Maya Angelou at the request of Stephen’s mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

The anniversary comes after Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley apologised for failings in the aftermath of the killing, with the force’s response to the investigation being branded institutionally racist in the 1999 Macpherson Report.

Stephen Lawrence memorial service
Stephen was stabbed to death on April 22 1993 in an unprovoked, racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus in Eltham (Family handout/PA)

The bungled original investigation hampered by racism and alleged police corruption meant it took nearly 20 years for two of the 18-year-old’s five killers to be brought to justice, with three never prosecuted.

The date of his death is now marked by Stephen Lawrence Day each year.

He was director of public prosecutions when two of Mr Lawrence’s killers were brought to justice.

Speaking outside the church, Mr Khan continued his assertion that the Metropolitan Police Service remains “institutionally racist”.

He told the PA news agency: “We’re here today to celebrate and remember Stephen Lawrence’s life, his legacy but also the extraordinary work that’s taken place by his family, Doreen Lawrence and by their team and address the issues of equality, diversity and inclusion.

“It’s 30 years since Stephen Lawrence was brutally murdered, I remember it well as a south Londoner.

“For those of us who are people of colour it had a ripple effect on us, ripples of hate but also the appalling way that the family was let down by the Met Police Service, by the media and by some politicians.

Stephen Lawrence memorial service
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the memorial (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“It’s really important that we recognise that 30 years on, Dame Louise Casey has found the Met Police to still be institutionally racist, we can’t ignore that or equivocate on that, we’ve got to make progress.”

The Casey Review into the Metropolitan Police published last month found the force to be institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic in the wake of a series of scandals, including the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer and Pc David Carrick being unmasked as a serial rapist.

Sir Mark admitted on Friday that the Metropolitan Police “did not dig deep enough” to root out racism since Mr Lawrence’s murder.

The Met commissioner said a failure to robustly confront “cultural and systemic” failings, which were exposed by the force’s response to the murder, had undermined its ability to fight crime, and he pledged to “finally” make the Met determinedly anti-racist.

Stephen Lawrence memorial service
From left, Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Stuart Lawrence, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and solicitor Imran Khan leave the memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“From launching education initiatives to opening up career pathways and inspiring community engagement, Stephen’s legacy has touched countless young lives and moved us closer towards a more just and equitable society”, she said in a statement.

“Yet, we must also acknowledge the work still to be done.

“Inequality persists, and our mission to create a world free from discrimination continues”.

She said “we will ensure that Stephen’s legacy endures, inspiring change and uniting us in the pursuit of justice and equity for all”.

Earlier this week, she told the BBC that “nothing much has changed” within the Metropolitan Police in the 30 years since her son was murdered.

Jessica Neil, chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation, said the anniversary was “an incredibly difficult time” for Mr Lawrence’s loved ones but said she was “feeling hopeful for the next 30 years”.

She told PA: “Today I’m feeling hopeful. This service, Stephen Lawrence Day more broadly and the wider community that support us, it’s such a powerful demonstration of what can happen when ordinary people come together and demand extraordinary change.

“I think the anniversary of Stephen’s death is an incredibly difficult time for the family, but focusing that into the foundation and the work that we do gives a sense of hope and hope that we can transform Stephen’s legacy that continues to deliver change for the next 30 years.”

She said the teenager’s legacy is one of “hope and change”.

She added: “He was an ordinary young man who’s life and death has inspired extraordinary change in the fabric of British society and so his legacy is one of hope and change and inspiring other young people like him to fulfil the breadth and depth of their potential.”

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