|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the purpose of the injunction, whether it was right or wrong, was based on decent scruple; namely, that the family should suffer no further if it could be avoided. As it happened, Jack Straw had made arrangements for them to see the report because the newspaper, taking its view about the public interest--which it is entitled to have in a free society--published it earlier than today. The Lawrences were brought in at relatively short notice to the Home Office to have that decent courtesy afforded to them. I shall say no more about the injunction.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and I are absolutely at one here. He is quite right: this is not simply an inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence because he was black. He is also right to say that the repercussions of this inquiry will define this report as the most important since Scarman. Indeed, without disrespect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, I believe that it will have infinitely greater consequences in the way that we conduct ourselves in our society, and not just in the police force. A police service only reflects the good points and the more ignoble points about the society it lives in and serves.
The noble Lord is right to say that the murderers of that young man are still free. That is a constant source of reproach and shame to all of us. The noble Lord is also right to say that racism is endemic in our community. The sooner we recognise it the better. If we do not have within ourselves the resource to recognise that elementary proposition, then we shall be meeting again in 20 years' time with a similar report, wringing our hands and wondering why we failed so abysmally.
The noble Lord is right to point out that this is not limited to the police service and right to point to the way that there are distortions in the criminal justice system, which statistics demonstrate, about charging, acquittals, sentences and the consequences of bail applications. That is another most important aspect of the report.
In the context of the Prison Service to which the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, referred, I am sure that he will know that Richard Tilt, the out-going director general, has already set up a task force to examine racism in the service. That also applies in the Probation Service. Indeed, it applies in the wider context as regards whether or not young black children and those from other ethnic minorities are fairly served by the education service at any level. It is perhaps a good idea occasionally to look also at the legal profession, which is far from perfect if you want to consider attitudes, prejudices and outcomes.
The noble Lord's final point of detail related to the question of how we deal with consultation of local communities. As the noble Lord implied, the latter differ infinitely. I believe that we have made a good beginning in the Crime and Disorder Act. It is a limited beginning but I recognise it as such. The legislation requires local partnerships and local audits in this very difficult area so that we shall no longer be able to say "We do well", when evidence, circumstance and statistics demonstrate that we do not.
Lord Desai: My Lords, I welcome the report. I do not often speak on police or race matters in your Lordships' House. However, I find it somewhat strange that no one has been punished in this case--that is to say, neither the murderers, nor indeed the police officers for incompetence. I do not want to put my noble friend the Minister on the spot, but does he not have some sympathy with the notion that if the football manager of England can be sacked for making a remark which some people may find offensive, surely it is surprising that no one has been sacked for this horrendous mess?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I shall stick to the focused point put by the noble Lord, Lord Desai; namely, that no one has been punished. That is absolutely right and, indeed, absolutely disgraceful. No one has been punished for killing a young man and the police officers have been allowed to retire. That is a consequence of the present police discipline regulations. The latter was the subject of Chris Mullin's excellent committee report which, as I remember it, was unanimous. Immediately on receipt of that report, Jack Straw said that we must attend to a change in the police discipline regulations so that mere early retirement will not be a total shield to disciplinary proceedings possibly involving financial sanction, which may include limitation of pension rights. I do not think that anyone can say that Jack Straw did not respond immediately to that defect in the police discipline regulations. Moreover, it is not limited to the police. There are other services with similar aspects, which I am personally considering at present.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, will the Minister accept that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that the Home Secretary should be congratulated on having set up the inquiry? Will the Minister also accept that this is a very detailed report and I have, therefore, not tried to get the gist of it in the few minutes that have
Does the Minister agree that there is some danger in accusing a whole force of institutionalised racism simply because, to most people, it is a phrase of uncertain meaning, as acknowledged by Sir William himself at one stage when he said that for 10 people there were four different definitions? In spite of the statement in the report that the finding does not imply that all police officers are racists, is there not a risk that the use of the phrase will taint all police officers in the force when the vast majority are not racist and at the same time may let individual racist officers off the hook when we really have to see that they are brought to book? It is important to recognise that the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence was appallingly badly handled; that the Lawrence family has suffered appallingly; and that the police must never allow anything like this to happen again and must give the highest priority to cracking down on racist officers and racially motivated crime.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, for his agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. It is, of course, a detailed report. One needs days, not hours, to study it with care. However, I have to disagree with his proposition. The definition in paragraph 6.34 is worth repeating and remembering:
Chapter 6 is an interesting chapter. Obviously the brief headline accounts of this report are limited. It is a thoughtful discussion of different definitions of racism. Sir William's report quotes--rightly, I think--at paragraph 6.43 what Lord Justice Leggatt said in the well-known case of Querishi v. London Borough of Newham:
Baroness Uddin: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating this important Statement which today marks a milestone in beginning to put in place an accountable and just police force. I salute the comprehensive comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and the searching questions, which I wholly endorse. I take this opportunity to express gratitude for the bravery of my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary in honouring the persistence of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence in bringing to public attention the shameful conduct of those officers who today shame the whole of the Met. Sir Paul Condon is not an issue. I appreciate the difficult decision that the Home Secretary had to take and support him in that. I look forward to Sir Paul Condon placing much emphasis on the recommendations that are before us.
It would be unjust not to acknowledge also the vanguard action of Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail without whose action middle England might never have acquired the knowledge we have today. I also pay tribute to the numerous other families who still await justice on account of the death or severe disablement of their sons. I refer to the Ricky Reel, the Muktar Ahmed and Quddus Ali families, to name but a few. I am confident that the recommendations of the report and the commitment of the Government to scrutinise its implementation will result in some fundamental changes not just within the Met but also perhaps within wider society so that Stephen Lawrence can finally rest in peace.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page