3 Jan 2012

We have paid a price – a very heavy price’

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

Home Affairs Correspondent Simon Israel writes on the financial and emotional cost of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.

I suspect there are many who privately asked themselves why has it taken 18 years?

To be fair to the Met in the last 10 years it has not been through want of trying.

Enormous resources have been poured in, just £3.8m alone for the forensics bill.

The Met has promised to provide a total cost for the last ten years. A reasonable estimate would be around £30m.

It’s clear the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation has been the biggest and most resourced inquiry in living memory outside of counter terrorism.

But with so many basic errors in 1993 original inquiry; on surveillance, on the delay of arrests, on the gathering of evidence, on leads which were never followed up, any new investigation faced a mountain to climb.

There have been seven in total, four before the 1998 Macpherson Inquiry and three since then.

Out of 11 suspects who have spanned the years since 1993 – two of the original ones have now finally been convicted.

The Parents of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, Neville (L) and Doreen, are seen in this file picture taken February 24, 1999 as they speak to the media in front of a banner of their son.

In the end, for Neville Lawrence it is this last inquiry which counts.

Mr Lawrence is not a vindictive man. He has nothing but praise for the investigation team.

He is satisfied with the simple fact that a trial has taken place. He recalls back in 1996, the devastation felt when the family’s private prosecution failed so badly. The trial of three suspects Gary Dobson, Neil Acourt and Luke Knight collapsed within days.

He recalls how the family, the lawyers and supporters wept for almost an hour in a private room at Old Bailey.

Today’s it’s different. There are no tears -but ask him if the 18 years has been worth it and he pauses. There’s been progress he says and many have benefitted.

“But I would prefer to be having dinner with Stephen tonight, he says.

“We have paid a price – a very heavy price.”

£30 million is also a pretty hefty price for the public purse. On the other hand this was not just about getting justice. It was also about restoring the Met’s reputation.

In this photo illustration the memorial plaque dedicated to Stephen Lawrence at the scene of his murder is pictured on November 8, 2007 in London, England.