Stephen Lawrence sentence: Now strive to ensure justice is fully served

Daily Mail Comment

Last updated at 11:50 PM on 4th January 2012


Credible: The Mail congratulates Mr Justice Treacy for his understanding of how this case has penetrated the nation’s conscience

Many, including this paper, would argue that minimum prison terms of 14 and 15 years are not nearly punishment enough for any murder – let alone a crime as ‘terrible and evil’ as the racist killing of Stephen Lawrence.

But nobody can fairly blame Mr Justice Treacy for the tariffs he handed down to Gary Dobson and David Norris. He was constrained by the law as laid down by Parliament and, had they been adults when they committed the murder, he would have given them at least 30 years.

Indeed, the Mail congratulates the judge, not only on going as far as the sentencing rules permit, but on his thorough grasp of the way in which this case has shaken the nation’s conscience and roused its thirst for justice.

As he spelt out yesterday, however, that thirst is not satisfied yet.
For although this has been a glorious week for justice, only two of Stephen’s killers have so far been held to account for their crime. Three other suspects named by the Mail nearly 15 years ago remain at liberty, while a fourth may also have been involved.

Indeed, we still don’t know which gang member inflicted the fatal wound.
Since Tuesday’s verdicts, politicians and police have been eager to assure us that the investigation will go on.

Says Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe: ‘The other people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should not rest easily in their beds.’

He must strive for as long as it takes to ensure these are not empty words.

This paper does not underestimate the difficulty of unearthing reliable new evidence relating to a crime committed nearly 19 years ago. But then for more than a decade, few believed that anybody would be brought to justice at all.

This week, the police proved triumphantly what they can achieve with enough focus and determination.

They must go on proving it, until all Stephen’s killers are behind bars.

A deadly danger

Let nobody be under any illusion about the Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by former Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer.

Despite its official-looking name, this is not a public body. Nor is it as independent or objective as it sounds.

Indeed, it is funded by author Sir Terry Pratchett, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, and businessman Bernard Lewis, both leading supporters of assisted suicide.

As for Lord Falconer, who picked its other ten members, he personally led an attempt to bring in an assisted dying Bill in the Lords three years ago.

So before the commission even began its deliberations, it was highly likely to favour bringing in a law that would allow doctors to help kill their patients.

One glance at its report, however, should warn how fraught with difficulty and danger any such legislation would be.

Public support: Sir Terry Pratchett, who believes in people with dementia being euthanised when they ask for it, is the Commission's banker

Dubious: The Commission on Assisted Dying is led by Lord Falconer and part funded by Sir Terry Pratchett – both known supporters of euthanasia

Under its chilling recommendations, a patient would be entitled to assistance in committing suicide if two GPs certified that he or she had less than a year to live.

As with a hire purchase agreement, there would then be a two-week ‘cooling off’ period, before the doctor prescribed the poison (or ‘medication’, as the commission euphemistically calls it).

But aren’t doctors often wildly wrong about life expectancy? And why should a life be thought less sacred because it is expected to end naturally within a year?

Yes, there will be agonising cases in which the authorities should show mercy. But that happens now.

If assisting suicide is made legal, isn’t the danger that it will become routine?

Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) hopes the report will ‘form the foundation for legislative change’. This paper prays that it won’t.

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