Four police officers involved in the original murder investigation into Stephen Lawrence will not be prosecuted, prosecutors say.
Mr Lawrence, 18, was stabbed to death by a group of white, racist youth in 1993 while he was waiting at a bus stop with a friend in Eltham.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has ruled that the four former officers, who were senior members of the investigative team, will not be charged with misconduct in public office in connection with conducting the first six weeks of the homicide investigation.
The initial investigations drew much criticism, and it took almost 20 years before two of the killers were brought to justice, and three suspects were never prosecuted. Gary Dobson and David Norris were eventually sentenced to life in prison in 2012 after the trial was based on only tiny traces of forensic evidence.
Six years after his assassination, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry not only found institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police, but also institutional corruption and incompetence.
In 1998 the Metropolitan Police apologized for the way they had handled the murder and sweeping changes to the police force have been made since then.
The CPS acknowledged on Thursday that Mr Lawrence’s family would find the decision “deeply disappointing” and offered to meet with them to explain in detail.
Nick Price, chief of the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) Special Crimes and Counter-Terrorism Division, announced that four former officers who investigated the early days of the murder would not be charged.
“Following a referral by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in 2021, the CPS has diligently reviewed criminal charges against four officers involved in the early stages of the investigation into Stephen’s 1993 murder,” he said.
“Charges of misconduct in public office were being examined regarding the direction of the four officers during the first six weeks of the murder investigation.
“After carefully reviewing the vast amount of evidence and material available in this complex case, we have decided that no criminal charges will be filed against the four suspects.
“In addition, no criminal charges will be filed in connection with a further investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) into allegations of perjury by a suspect who alleged corruption in the initial homicide investigation, which also failed to meet our legal criteria for a prosecution.” ”
Ten days ago, Stephen’s mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, called for officers to be fired after a new murder suspect was identified as Matthew White.
Two witnesses said White, who died in 2021, confessed to being present at the attack. Police did not speak to one of the witnesses, his stepfather, until 20 years after the murder because officers had previously misidentified him.
The three other remaining suspects are brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, who are now in prison for drug trafficking, and Luke Knight, who is still at large.
The police regulator, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said it was satisfied that the National Crime Agency, which was investigating the four former officers’ actions, had “explored all possible avenues”.
Mr Price added: “We understand this could be deeply disappointing for Stephen’s family and friends and the CPS has offered to meet with close family members to explain our decision in detail.”
The decision is also subject to the Victim’s Right of Review system, which provides a victim or their family members, in some class of cases, with a specially designed process to exercise the right to review certain CPS decisions not to prosecute or to cease prosecution.
Sarah Green, Director of the IOPC Surveillance Agency, said: “Our thoughts are with Stephen’s family and friends and everyone who remains deeply saddened by his racist murder.”
“It was his brutal murder and legacy, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report written by Sir William Macpherson, that ultimately led to the formation of our own organisation.
“It was therefore important that we follow every possible line of inquiry to determine whether corruption played a role in the well-documented failures of the original investigation into Stephen’s murder and the attack on Duwayne Brooks.
“A vast body of documentation, information and intelligence, some unavailable to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, spanning 27 years, was collected and analyzed.”
Ms Green said more than 150 people were interviewed, including current and former police officers and employees, relevant witnesses and others such as journalists with a working knowledge of the original murder investigation.
“At its peak, 50 NCA investigators and support staff were solely concerned with determining whether corruption played a role in the initial investigation into Stephen’s murder. This was an extensive investigation and we are pleased that the NCA has examined all possible avenues.
“We know this has been a very long process for everyone involved and we have ensured that all interested parties were kept informed throughout our investigation.
“We remain committed to bringing to light the events of many years ago surrounding Stephen’s racist murder and we will release the reports of any IOPC investigation that followed the Ellison Review as soon as possible.
“While the CPS has ruled that there is insufficient evidence to charge the four former officers, it has granted victims the right to review its decision, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”