Courageous campaigner is determined to reveal the truth
Last week I had the honour of meeting Dr Richard Stone, the former chair of JCore, who sat on the panel of the Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
He will shortly publish his memoir of the inquiry, Hidden Stories, which will provide a unique perspective on an extraordinary moment in late 20th century history.
At the end of a long working life, which included 20 years as a GP in Notting Hill as well as his time as an equality campaigner, Dr Stone could be forgiven for spending more time with his OBE. But he isn’t finished yet.
He is determined to tell how the work of the inquiry was undermined at every step, to divert attention away from the suspicion that there was corruption at the heart of the police investigation into the murder.
This involved alleged payments made to a senior officer by the criminal father of one of the suspects. The inquiry was devastating for the police, concluding as it did that there was “collective failure” and “institutional racism” within the Met. But unable to find any hard evidence of collusion between the police and the suspects, the inquiry officially found that there was “no corruption” involved.
It is now 13 years since the Macpherson Report was published and more than two decades since Stephen Lawrence was left in a pool of blood on the streets of Eltham.
It is almost exactly a year since two of the suspects in the murder, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were finally convicted of the crime. After the intervention of Home Secretary Theresa May last June, there will also now be an inquiry into the corruption allegations which have haunted Dr Stone for all these years.
And that will be that, finally we can all go back to living our lives, happy in the knowledge that institutional racism, police corruption and establishment cover-ups are the stuff of a previous, more primitive century.
Well, not quite. The fact that Stephen Lawrence’s brother, Stuart, is suing the Met for racially-motivated harassment would suggest that all is not yet well.
One of the issues Dr Stone will raise in his book is the role Whitehall officialdom took in undermining the inquiry. The new investigation into the corruption allegations only came about when it was revealed that a Scotland Yard report into the suspicions had been kept from Macpherson.
We will probably never know what else was withheld from the inquiry. A report to the London Mayor by the Met last May concluded: “There is no other material known to be held by the MPS which suggests that corruption or collusion in any way impacted upon the initial investigation in the murder of Stephen Lawrence.”
Meanwhile, the Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger has asked the Home Secretary why the correspondence files of the Macpherson Inquiry have not been placed in the National Archive along with all the other papers. It’s a good question.
The search for the truth in the Stephen Lawrence case has been too long and too painful. It is a tribute to the courage of the Lawrence family, the tenacity of journalists such as Vikram Dodd on the Guardian and campaigners such as Dr Richard Stone that the battle continues.