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COLUMN: Lessons learned from the brutal murder of Stephen Lawrence

Police officers.
Police officers.

Twenty five years ago, a young man was brutally murdered in a racist attack which left a shameful stain on British society. The circumstances surrounding the death of Stephen Lawrence forced a nation to finally face up to the endemic racism that permeates its communities.

The 18-year battle for justice by Stephen’s parents has brought painful lessons which we’ve learned from and continue to absorb. These mistakes should never be forgotten.

Campaigners have fought a long and arduous battle for change, demanding justice for not only Stephen but for every human being abused, attacked, ridiculed or excluded because of the colour of their skin or indeed any other apparent “difference”. And they have succeeded.

The unfaltering efforts of Stephen’s parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence OBE have commanded change across policing and in law to ensure no other families suffer as they did.

The Macpherson report published in 1999 was the beginning of that long journey of reform. Today, a racist incident is defined as “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person” – a change which has increased reports and ensured victims feel listened to and validated.

Victims of hate crime and their families receive better emotional and practical support and are kept informed of their case while there are now many ways to report hate crime, not just via the police.

In Derbyshire, victims have access to a host of PCC-funded services to support their recovery from hate crime.

Our campaign work has increased reports of hate crime and the number of referrals to victims support services.

As a Sikh and Britain’s first BME police and crime commissioner, I’m determined the lessons of Stephen Lawrence’s tragic death are never lost.