After black teenager Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths in 1993, a public inquiry into the murder branded the Metropolitan Police institutionally racist and called for the widespread reform of British institutions.
Tonight – as the twentieth anniversary of Stephen’s death approaches – Julie Etchingham meets his mother, Doreen, and examines to what extent British Society has changed over the past two decades.
In the early years after Stephen’s death, there were two police investigations, an unsuccessful private prosecution, and a review by the Police Complaints Authority.
But it was only after a full-scale public inquiry – headed by Sir William Macpherson – that the charge of institutional racism was levelled.
And it took nearly twenty years of determined campaigning by the Lawrence family before they finally got some of the justice they’d been fighting for – with two of the main suspects found guilty of Stephen’s murder last year.
Dr Richard Stone, who sat on the original Macpherson Inquiry, agrees with Doreen Lawrence that police stop and search policies still highlight problems of discrimination. Black people in London are now twice as likely to be stopped by police as their white counterparts.
Doreen tells the programme that her schoolteacher son Stuart has been stopped repeatedly over the years. Entrepreneur Ben Douglas, a black man from south-west London who owns a top of the range Audi, explains that he was stopped for no apparent reason only last month.
London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe argues that stop and search complaints are down by a third and that most officers do a good job but adds that further training is planned and that improvements are still required.
Hogan-Howe agrees that more black and ethnic minority officers should be employed and promoted to leadership positions after criticism by one of the country’s most senior Asian police officers, Chief Supt Dal Babu.
Last year there were over 35,000 racial hate crimes recorded in England & Wales. But many believe the fact that people are confident enough to report such abuses shows that overt racism is no longer tolerated.
The programme visits a Birmingham based charity – City United – which helps disadvantaged young people. In a question and answer session, many of the youngsters involved say they have encountered racism in modern day Britain.
A school in Oldham – a town which suffered a race riot in 2001 – is doing its best to heal divisions. The 1,500 pupil Waterhead Academy is a recent merger of two largely segregated secondary schools.
Head Nigel McQuoid explains: “Ten years ago things didn’t go well. We are nervous that we don't go back to those days, so inch by inch we are trying to get there.”
Doreen Lawrence has organised a memorial service to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of her eldest son’s murder 20 years ago on Monday.
She tells the programme: “I don't want Stephen always to be remembered to be this murdered teenager. I want it to be remembered that he has provided a legacy.”
Stephen had dreamed of being an architect. Among the hundreds of bursaries handed out by the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust was one to Lisa Basu who fulfilled her dream of qualifying as an architect.
Watch Tonight - Stephen Lawrence: 20 Years On at 7.30pm on ITV