Stephen Lawrence murder: Norris and Dobson get 14 and 15 years
Gary Dobson and David Norris were ordered to serve minimum sentences of 15 and 14 years respectively for the “terrible and evil” murder of Stephen Lawrence.
The Old Bailey courtroom was filled with extended members of the Lawrence family as Mr Justice Treacy addressed the two men who convicted of the racist killing.
The murder of Lawrence, the judge said, was a “terrible, evil crime”.
“A totally innocent 18-year-old youth on the threshold of a promising life was brutally cut down in the street … by a racist, thuggish gang. You were both members of that gang. I have no doubt that you fully subscribed to its views and attitudes.”
Addressing Dobson, he said: “You are now 36. At 17 years and 10 months you were very nearly 18 when you murdered Stephen Lawrence.”
The judge said under rules at the time of the killing in 1993 he must sentence both men as juveniles to be detained at her majesty’s pleasure with recommended minimum life terms.
In Dobson’s case he sentenced him to a minimum term of 15 years and two months. Dobson stood with his hands behind his back and stared at the judge as he made his remarks.
To Norris, 35, the judge said he would impose a minimum term of 14 years and three months.
Under the current law which is encompassed in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, if the crime had been committed today, both men could have expected to receive a minimum term of 25 years as juveniles committing a racist knife murder.
Starting from a minimum term of 12 years, the judge took into account the aggravating factors in the case, that it was a racist killing and that the men knew someone in their group was likely to be carrying a knife.
The judge said neither had shown the slightest regret or remorse and had lied to the court and the police.
He said that undercover police footage of the pair using racist obscenities showed “disgusting and shocking scenes”, and that the murder was committed “for no other reason than racial hatred”.
Treacy said that neither Lawrence nor his friend Duwayne Brooks, who was with him on the night of the fatal attack, had done anything to harm, threaten or offend the group.
The evidence in the trial could not prove who wielded the knife, but he said that whoever used it had done so with Dobson and Norris’s “knowledge and approval”.
He said: “Whilst the attack on Stephen Lawrence himself clearly could not have been premeditated since it was a chance encounter, I cannot accept that a crime of this type simply arose on the spur of the moment.
“The way in which the attack took place strongly suggests to me that your group, if not actively seeking out a victim, was prepared, if the opportunity arose, to attack in the way in which you did.”
Dobson and Norris were convicted unanimously by an Old Bailey jury on Tuesday after a seven-week trial. The men – two of the five original suspects for the racist killing of Lawrence in 1993 – were brought to justice after a cold case review of the exhibits in the case unearthed DNA evidence putting them at the scene on the murder.
But Dobson’s mother continued to protest that her son was innocent. Speaking at the front door of her home in Eltham, south-east London, after arriving home from the Old Bailey after the verdict, Pauline Dobson, said: “He’s innocent. We are absolutely devastated as a family – devastated.
“My son is innocent and one day we will prove that.
“I really don’t know what we are going to do but we will find a way to prove he is innocent. Ask all the police who have been involved in this case – every single policeman says Gary never did it.”
Their conviction finally brought some justice for Lawrence’s family, his parents, Doreen and Neville and his siblings, Stuart and Georgina.
But both parents said in the aftermath of the verdicts that five or six white men were responsible for the killing, and justice would only fully be served once they were all brought to justice.
The Scotland Yard commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, said: “The other people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should not rest easily in their beds” as he welcome the convictions of Norris and Dobson.
Detectives have a list of nine remaining suspects for the murder including the Acourt brothers, Jamie and Neil, and Luke Knight – who were three of the five men identified in a series of messages passed to police within hours of the killing.
The case remains open but unless there is a confession or a change of allegiances it is unlikely anyone else will be charged.
Detectives are to visit Dobson and Norris in prison in a bid to exploit their anger that while they will spend years in jail the others responsible are at liberty. But police cannot offer any inducements to the men. And as convicted killers and liars the idea of signing either of them up as “supergrass” witnesses under the Serious Organised Crime and Policing act is fraught with difficulties.
What detectives hope is that facing a long jail sentence the men – Dobson in particular – might provide new evidence which they could pursue.
The killing and the tireless fight for justice of the Lawrence family brought major changes to policing, the law and politics. The acting deputy commissioner of the Met, Cressida Dick, said it had the greatest impact of any murder in modern British history on the police.
The public inquiry into the murder identified institutionalised racism and incompetence within the Met. Acute police failings had ensured that none of the five suspects were brought to justice at the time.
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