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PA Aaron Chown
UK News

Pentecostal Bishop says black people still hit 'buffer of racism' despite progress since Stephen Lawrence murder

by Chantalle Edmunds

Thursday was the third annual Stephen Lawrence Day, named after the black teenager who was killed in an unprovoked racist attack on the same day in 1993 at the age of just 18.

Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, theologian, church leader and government advisor told Premier what he believes has changed and what has not improved in the last 28 years.

"Well, certainly what has not changed is black people's experience. You hit upon this buffer of racism pretty regularly. What has changed...we've had some changes in law, for example, as a result of Stephen Lawrence. There was another young man, Kelso Cochrane, who, in the 50s, was also killed and his death also brought about a number of legal changes.

"There have been legal changes, changes in law about how we respond to the responsibility, for example, of having to report racism. And there have been changes in the police and the police have come up with new ideas about how to behave."

He added: "I was a young man training up to be a priest in the Pentecostal church and what we found then was that a lot of young people were talking about the difficulties they were having both as black people living in society, the difficulty in getting on, the problems in school and the problems with the police. Some of those statistics have changed. I think the latest police figures I've seen, for example, would suggest that numbers of certain kinds of crimes against black people have reduced but the reporting of them has increased."

After the initial police investigation into Stephen's murder, five suspects were arrested but not convicted.

A public inquiry into the handling of the case was held in 1998. This lead to the publication of the 350-page Macpherson Report. The report concluded that the investigation into the killing had been hampered by a combination of professional incompetence along with institutional racism and a failure of leadership.

Recommendations from the report led to specific changes in the law including the abolition of the double jeopardy law which stated that people could not be tried for the same crime twice. Targets for the recruitment, retention and promotion of black and Asian officers were also introduced.

Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were found guilty of Stephen's murder by a jury at the Old Bailey in 2012.

A new video has been produced to mark the third annual Stephen Lawrence Day featuring the Bishop of Dover and Lewis Hamilton.

Christian Labour MP, Marsha de Cordova took to Twitter to commemorate the anniversary of Stephen's death stating: "Today we remember Stephen, all those lost to racism & the fight for justice. #StephenLawrenceDay."


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