Stephen Lawrence murder detectives will not face prosecution, CPS announces

Stephen Lawrence was fatally stabbed at a bus stop in Eltham in 1993 in a racist attack (PA Media)
Stephen Lawrence was fatally stabbed at a bus stop in Eltham in 1993 in a racist attack (PA Media)

Four former detectives will not face prosecution for their failures in the first Stephen Lawrence murder investigation, it was announced on Tuesday.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that although it would be "extremely disappointing" for Stephen's family, it had upheld its earlier decision that charges of misconduct in public office could not be brought against the four, despite delays in carrying out arrests following tip offs within hours of the killing about the prime suspects.

Only two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris, have since been convicted of the killing, while three of the other original prime suspects have escaped conviction. A sixth suspect, Matthew White, who died in 2020, was named last year and also never faced charges over the murder.

It emerged on Monday the Met is to review the decision to stop looking for teenager's other killers.

The CPS had already announced last year that it would not bring charges against four officers - Detective Superintendent Ian Crampton, Detective Superintendent Brian Weeden, Detective Inspector Benjamin Bullock, Detective Chief Superintendent William Ilsley – involved in investigating the racist killing in the immediate aftermath of the crime in April 1993 in which Stephen was fatally stabbed at a bus stop in Eltham.

A review of the decision was agreed in response to requests by Stephen’s parents, Dr Neville Lawrence and Baroness Doreen Lawrence, and his friend Duwayne Brooks, who was present during the attack.

Doreen and Neville Lawrence
Doreen and Neville Lawrence

But on Tuesday prosecutors said that the review had upheld their original decision and that the four former officers will not face charges.

Rosemary Ainslie, the head of the CPS' special crime division, said: "Significant changes were made to policy and legislation in the wake of Stephen’s death andin 2012, the CPS was able to successfully prosecute two men for his murder – Gary Dobson and David Norris – due to a change in double jeopardy laws.

“Following our decision in July 2023 not to bring criminal charges against four police officers involved in the initial six weeks of the investigation into Stephen’smurder, we received a request to review the decision under the Victim’s Right to Review (VRR) scheme.

“An extensive review of that decision, which involved an independent prosecutor re-examining a substantial amount of evidence and material in the case, has nowbeen completed.

“Offences of misconduct in public office were reconsidered, but the review upheld the original decision not to bring any criminal charges against the four officersin the case.

“We understand this news will be extremely disappointing for Stephen’s family and friends, and the CPS has offered to meet with close family members to explainour reasoning in further detail.”

Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993
Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993

The decision not to charge the former officers is understood to have been based on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of securing a conviction.

The failures over the pursuit of Stephen’s racist killers have long been a stain on the Met’s reputation and a public inquiry led by Sir William Macpherson concluded in 1999 that the first investigation into the murder had been "marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers".

The inquiry’s report also strongly criticised the failure to make swift arrests. The current Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has also admitted that mistakes made early in the murder investigation have severely undermined subsequent police efforts to bring all of Stephen’s killers to justice.

The first arrests in the case did not take place until two weeks after Stephen’s stabbing despite the Met receiving information implicating four of the prime suspects in the first 24 hours after the crime.