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Stephen Lawrence Day anniversary

Today is Stephen Lawrence Day – marking the 30th anniversary of the murder of the teenager in London.

Stephen was killed, on April 22nd 1993, in an unprovoked attack by a group of white youths, on a bus stop near his home in Eltham.

The failed investigation into the crime resulted in a report by Sir William Macpherson, which was published in 1999, and found institutional racism in the Met Police.

PCC Mark Shelford said: “Today we commemorate the life of Stephen Lawrence and reflect on his legacy 30 years after his brutal and tragic murder.

“The Macpherson report was a watershed moment for policing in the UK and many police officers tell me of the impact it had on them and the way they work.

“The recently published Casey Report has demonstrated that many of the issues raised by Macpherson are still prevalent in policing and need to be tackled. 

“Here in Avon and Somerset we are keenly focused on all of these issues and there is lots of work happening in my office and in Avon and Somerset Police under the Tackling Disproportionality Programme and the Police Race Action Plan.”

This month also marks one year since the launch of the report into Identifying Disproportionality in the Avon and Somerset Criminal Justice System. 

The independent report was commissioned in 2019, under the previous PCC and Chief Constable. It involved a two-year review into data and lived experience of Black and minoritised communities and the criminal justice system agencies in Avon and Somerset. The review was led by local campaigner and activist for racial equality Desmond Brown who authored the report.

There are 83 recommendations from the report, 43 of which are for the Avon and Somerset Police. In the last 12 months work has been underway to set up a Tackling Disproportionality Steering Committee under the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB) to deliver the work required to meet the recommendations within Desmond Brown’s report. 

The LCJB, which is chaired by the PCC, is a multi-agency partnership made up of all the services in the criminal justice process like police, courts, prisons, probation, Crown Prosecution Service, The Judiciary and others.

PCC Shelford said: “It’s been a year since Desmond’s report was published and launched by my office. Although not all the data was there, a picture was built by Desmond’s report which identified strong themes around entry points into the criminal justice system and disproportionality that begins before that point. 

“This means we really must work in partnership with all the agencies and organisations that play a part in that journey, including school academies, local authorities, the police service, youth justice teams, the courts, the Crown Prosecution Service, Prisons, Probation and third sector organisations to tackle this issue together.  This is not a policing issue alone.”

The Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Sarah Crew, has stepped up to lead the work in seeing through the legacy of the report as chair of the Steering Committee. The first meeting of the Steering Committee will take place in May.

PCC Shelford added: “As the chair of the LCJB it is part of my job to bring partners together to work more efficiently and effectively.

“Tackling racial disproportionality is not about ticking off a list of recommendations. It’s about leadership and culture change to build confidence and trust in all our communities.

“Legitimacy has never been more important and tackling racial disproportionality is one of the areas crucial to legitimacy in policing and the wider criminal justice system.

“We have seen many reports. Desmond’s report must be a catalyst for action and change in the way we collectively deliver services locally to all our communities.

“There is a lot more to do and we need to move faster to progress this work. Our legacy to Stephen Lawrence is to ensure communities feel and see the difference in the way they are treated by our criminal justice agencies.”