This year we are proud to be supporting the first national Stephen Lawrence Day. Most people are familiar with the story of Stephen Lawrence, the young man who aspired to become an architect whose life was cut cruelly short at 18 years old when he was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. Stephen’s story is both challenging and inspirational, with his short life having had a profound impact on society, including changes to UK law and the national school curriculum. The day, which is organised by the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, is an opportunity for young people and communities to make their voices heard, be the change they want to see, and to help inspire and empower us all to live our best life.
PCC Sue Mountstevens met with Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees to discuss the importance of Stephen Lawrence Day.
Speaking ahead of Stephen Lawrence Day, PCC Sue Mountstevens said: "We want all our children and young people to feel inspired today because of Stephen Lawrence.
Every young person has the right to discover what they are capable of, to be confident and have hope in their own future. It’s incredibly important to us as leaders that you feel empowered to create the kind of community you want to live in and that you have a strong voice in building a fairer and more inclusive society.
I know that there are still too many injustices in our society and many of those inequalities are still within our criminal justice services.
It’s clear that young people are needed to drive social change and create a society that treats everyone with fairness and respect. I want you to be inspired to make that difference, to have hope that things can be changed for the better and that your own future can be better.
Let’s celebrate the life and legacy of Stephen and inspire each other to take an active role in building stronger communities in which everyone can flourish."
We also heard from Desmond Brown, Independent Chair of the Lammy Review Group for Avon and Somerset: "It has now been 25 years since Marlon Thomas and his family’s lives changed forever as a result of a brutal racist attack in Bristol, and it has been 20 years since the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry highlighted the differential treatment of BME groups in the criminal justice system. Although there has been 20 years of debate and government initiatives, we have not been successful in narrowing the gap; the Lammy Review (2017) and the Cabinet Office Race Audit (2017) continue to highlight that BME people experience over-surveillance and are under-protected within all stages of our criminal justice system.
This is not being said to diminish the efforts of Avon and Somerset Police, Bristol City Council or other criminal justice partners; these organisations have and continue to seek solutions to the disproportionalities that BME groups face. However, history teaches us that if we are to truly address the ongoing disproportionalities in our criminal justice system, only a relentless and courageous focus on discrimination – both personal and institutional – is needed to narrow the gap.
The debate about racism in our criminal justice system needs to include a way of addressing the broader structural inequalities that exist in our society. Inequalities in education, employment, health and housing all form a backdrop to the way in which race influences criminal justice.
So on this first Stephen Lawrence day, I will be quietly reflecting on those who have suffered, those who continue to suffer injustice within the criminal justice system and how we can make things better."
Find out more about the day by visiting www.stephenlawrenceday.org or follow @S_LawrenceTrust on Twitter. You can use the hashtags #BecauseofStephen and #SLDay to join in with the conversation.
Posted on Thursday 18th April 2019