When I was looking to come here, I tried to find information that sets out, around the 70 recommendations, where we have moved on, how many recommendations have been implemented, be it in the police, be it in schools, and I found it really difficult to find anything. It seems as if things have become really stagnant and nothing seems to have moved.
Source: Baroness Lawrence, Evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, 5 February 20191
1.Stephen Lawrence, a Black teenager, was murdered on 22 April 1993 in an unprovoked, racist knife attack by five White youths while waiting with his friend Duwayne Brooks at a bus stop in Eltham, South London. The police were heavily criticised for their initial action at the scene, major failings in the investigation, the way the family were treated, and the failure to secure convictions. In July 1997, after years of campaigning by Stephen Lawrence’s mother and father—Doreen (now Baroness) Lawrence and Neville (now Dr) Lawrence—and their supporters, the then Home Secretary Rt Hon Jack Straw MP announced a judicial inquiry, led by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny with the support of three advisors (Tom Cook; Rt Reverend John Sentamu and Dr Richard Stone).
2.The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry sought to identify the “matters arising from the death of Stephen Lawrence […] in order particularly to identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes”.2 The first hearing of the inquiry took place in October 1997.
3.The inquiry reported in February 1999. Commenting on the failed police investigations, the inquiry concluded:
There is no doubt but that there were fundamental errors. The investigation was marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers. A flawed MPS review failed to expose these inadequacies. The second investigation could not salvage the faults of the first investigation.3
4.Fundamental to its 70 recommendations for reform was the need to “increase trust and confidence in policing amongst minority ethnic communities”.4 The Macpherson report set “the overall aim” of “the elimination of racist prejudice and disadvantage and the demonstration of fairness in all aspects of policing”.5
5.Most of the report’s 70 recommendations were aimed at the criminal justice system (notably the Home Office and the police service), but the report also recommended changes to the education system to promote awareness of racial justice from early in life.6
6.The report’s 70 recommendations ranged across the following themes:7
7.The then Home Secretary Rt Hon Jack Straw MP welcomed the report and the Government published an action plan in March 1999 accepting the overwhelming majority of the recommendations and outlining a series of legislative, institutional and policy changes to implement them.8 The report led to legal changes, targets for the recruitment, retention and promotion of Black and Asian officers, and the creation of the (then) Independent Police Complaints Commission.9 Further, a recommendation to abolish the “double jeopardy” rule—preventing suspects being tried twice for the same offence—resulted in the 2012 conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris for Stephen Lawrence’s murder.10
8.The Stephen Lawrence Steering Group was set up to oversee the implementation of the recommendations, chaired by the Home Secretary and including the Black Police Association, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Lawrence family.11
9.The Home Affairs Select Committee carried out an inquiry in 2009 to reflect on the 10 years since the publication of the Macpherson report. It noted that the police had made “tremendous strides in the service they provide to ethnic minority communities and in countering racism amongst its workforce” and indicated at that time that they believed that 67 of the 70 Macpherson report recommendations had been implemented in full or part.12 Many of these recommendations set out practical steps to be taken and could be quickly implemented by the institutions concerned. Others were partly implemented by 2009 but had further work still to do. Some recommendations set out overarching aims, objectives and priorities, where achievement is more complex to measure or where implementation has been more varied over the years.
10.The Committee noted progress had been made to “tackle racial prejudice and discrimination since 1999” including: a cultural shift within the Metropolitan Police Service which had improved how the police were engaging with minority ethnic communities;13 and police forces’ adoption of many of Sir William Macpherson’s recommendations on investigating crimes, including that racist incidents should be defined as “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”.14 As a result of these changes the Committee highlighted that reporting of hate crimes had increased and the hate crime detection rate had doubled to around 44%.15
11.The Committee also drew attention to evidence it received from Duwayne Brooks who “highlighted the introduction of appropriately trained Family Liaison Officers in critical incidents, as recommended by Macpherson, as an important area of progress”.16 Another witness, former Chief Constable Otter, an Association of Chief Police Officers lead on race and diversity, argued that such improvements had led to increased confidence levels in policing among Black communities, which the report said “now mirror confidence levels in White communities nationally”.17
12.Despite progress made in some key areas of policing, the Committee drew attention to areas of concern. It argued that increased use of stop and search and the inclusion in the DNA database of samples from those arrested but not charged, served to perpetuate Black people’s over-representation in the criminal justice system:
“We repeat our warning that any gains made by the use of stop and search may be offset by its potentially negative impact on community relations”.18
13.The Committee expressed concern that progress had been slowest “within the police workforce itself”.19 It said that by the end of 2008, 20 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales had not met individual targets introduced by the then Home Secretary to improve the recruitment of Black and minority ethnic (BME) officers.20 The Committee concluded that the police service “must now focus its efforts on tackling issues of discrimination within the workforce”.21
14.The year 2019 marked twenty years since the publication of the Macpherson Report. This inquiry was announced in December 2018 with the intention of reviewing progress in meeting the recommendations and, in particular, progress in relation to increasing the number of BME officers, efforts to ensure a diverse and inclusive culture within the police service, race equality training within the service and the reporting of racist incidents and crimes.22 We recognise that, by 2009, substantial changes had already taken place in many areas, including on issues like first aid training and reforms to the law. We focused this inquiry on those areas highlighted by our predecessors where less progress had been made, and in particular on issues around race and policing.
15.Our inquiry was closed in November 2019 due to the general election on 12 December. It reopened in March 2020.
16.During the course of our inquiry we received over 120 pieces of written evidence and held thirteen oral evidence sessions. We also held a private roundtable with Black and minority ethnic young people from London who had direct experience of the police, primarily through the use of stop and search procedures. We wrote to individual organisations to request answers to specific questions to aid our inquiry.
17.Our inquiry briefly touched on institutions beyond the police service, including the UK Parliament. Imran Khan QC challenged us to be vigilant about how the Houses of Parliament treats those from Black and minority ethnic communities. He drew our attention to the findings of a report by a House of Commons workplace equality network, ParliREACH, ‘Stand in my shoes: race and culture within Parliament’ which found that role-based access restrictions were in place that disproportionately impacted Black and minority ethnic staff.23, 24 Consequently, we sought written evidence from the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Clerk of the House to clarify this issue and received further information on their approach to addressing racial and structural inequality in Parliament. In February 2020, the Clerk of the Parliaments confirmed the permanent removal of grade-based access restrictions to all facilities in the House of Lords, and, in March 2021, we received correspondence from the Clerk of the House updating us on ongoing changes to access arrangements based on business need rather than grade or status in the House of Commons.25 We have further raised these issues with the Administration Committee. Consideration of Parliament’s arrangements lies outside the scope of this inquiry. However we note the responsibility of all members of the parliamentary community, not least its elected representatives, to challenge and eradicate racial inequality within Parliament.
18.We received valuable input from our Specialist Adviser Dr Nicola Rollock and also in the last Parliament from our Specialist Adviser on Policing, Sir Peter Fahy, former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police. We are extremely grateful to everyone who contributed to this inquiry and recognise that, for some, this involved the retelling of difficult and painful events. We would especially like to thank Baroness Lawrence, Dr Neville Lawrence and Duwayne Brooks for their time and contributions.
19.On 14 February 2021, prior to the publication of this report, we were saddened to learn of the passing of Sir William Macpherson.26 His appointment in 1999 to lead the judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Stephen Lawrence’s murder was pivotal to the production of the inquiry’s meticulous final report, the recognition of the complex and embedded nature of racism in the police service, the introduction of sweeping reforms across policing and also ultimately to the conviction of two people for Stephen Lawrence’s murder, which revealed the complex and embedded nature of racism in the police service. The report remains one of the most significant, though potentially contentious, inquiries into race and policing in England and Wales.27 Leading the tributes to him Baroness Lawrence said, “he had the decency and integrity to listen carefully to what was overwhelming evidence of racism infecting the investigation into my son’s murder”.28
20.In this report we use the acronyms BME (Black and minority ethnic) and BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic). We recognise the various arguments about this terminology and that these acronyms do not necessarily speak to how individuals within these groups might self-identify. We are especially sensitive to the arguments surrounding ‘BAME’ and, as a result, have sought only to use it where it already exists in published sources so as to avoid any confusion in cross-referencing. Where the statistical sources allow, we have sought to disaggregate the data to highlight the experiences of and trends across and between specific ethnic groups.
21.The Home Affairs Committee was re-established following the 2019 general election. We chose to take evidence in connection with this inquiry as an early priority and held our first evidence session of the new Parliament in March 2020.
22.On 25 May 2020, while our inquiry was ongoing, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was tragically killed in Minneapolis, USA by a White police officer who was subsequently convicted of his murder. In reaction to his death, and expressing wider concerns about racial justice, thousands of protestors took to the streets in the USA, the UK and across the world. The subsequent evidence sessions held as part of this inquiry inevitably involved consideration of the very serious issues brought into focus by George Floyd’s death and the resulting protests.
23.Immediately following this a series of Government Ministers and public institutions, including the police, affirmed the principle that Black lives matter. The police announced a programme of work aimed at tackling racial injustice and inequality including commitments on the part of police leaders and individual forces, such as the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), to address racial inequalities in policing through the production and implementation of action plans. In the same period the Government appointed a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities “to examine inequality across the UK, across the whole population”.29 We consider these responses in the course of this report.30
24.The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, led by the late Sir William Macpherson, was truly ground-breaking when its report was published twenty-two years ago. It led to major changes in the law, in policing, in the response to institutional racism and the treatment of racist crimes. Ultimately it led to the conviction of two of the suspects for Stephen Lawrence’s murder.
25.Many of the findings and subsequent 70 recommendations made by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry focused on longstanding issues which remain as relevant today, in particular, the overall aim set by the late Sir William Macpherson of “the elimination of racist prejudice and disadvantage and the demonstration of fairness in all aspects of policing”. Our inquiry was prompted by concerns that, in some areas, much more still needed to be done to achieve that overall aim. Given the significance of the report both to policing and to the wider understanding of institutional racism, we were very concerned to hear from Baroness Lawrence just after the twentieth anniversary of the Macpherson report in 2019 that, on the report’s recommendations, “it seems as if things have become really stagnant and nothing seems to have moved”.
26.Our inquiry does not attempt to replicate the work of the forensic judge-led Stephen Lawrence Inquiry twenty-two years on, nor to replicate the many other wider reports about racism and race equality since then. But we have assessed progress against some of the most important Macpherson report recommendations: on community confidence, on tackling racist crimes, on recruitment and retention of Black and other minority ethnic officers and staff, on the use of stop and search and other powers, and on Sir William’s overall aim of the elimination of racism and the demonstration of fairness in policing. As our report shows, addressing the shortcomings in these areas is an urgent challenge.
27.The Committee set out to examine the progress against Sir William Macpherson’s recommendations. We found as part of our inquiry that neither the Home Office nor any other organisation holds a detailed list of the progress against each recommendation. Some were immediate recommendations that were completed many years ago, others were broader and thematic where progress has been more varied, and in some areas we found persistent problems that have not been resolved even after over twenty years. Based on the evidence we received we have therefore focused our inquiry and our report as follows.
28.Chapter one of this report sets out the background to our inquiry including the circumstances of Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993 and the subsequent aims and recommendations of the Macpherson report published in 1999.
29.As the report sought as its central objective to “increase trust and confidence in policing amongst minority ethnic communities,”31 we therefore assess the current situation in respect of BME community confidence in policing, which was the subject of Macpherson’s first recommendation, in chapter two.
30.The original Macpherson inquiry was commissioned “particularly to identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes”, following the failure of police to recognise that Stephen Lawrence’s murder was racially motivated.32 Chapter three therefore assesses the progress made in recording and responding to racist crimes, including online hate crime, and the support available for BME victims of crime.
31.The next part of our report focuses on issues which were highlighted by the then Home Affairs Committee when it conducted an inquiry into progress ten years on from the Macpherson Report, in 2009. Our predecessors expressed particular concern about police forces failing to meet targets for recruitment and retention of officers from BME communities, and also about the disproportionate representation of Black people in stop and search statistics. Chapter four therefore examines the current situation in relation to the recruitment and progression of BME officers and chapter five examines concerns that were raised with us about BME officers being more likely to be subjected to disciplinary procedures.
32.Stop and search, and persistent concerns about disproportionality ever since the Macpherson report is the focus of chapter six.
33.Chapter seven looks forward at emerging police technologies and tools which were not anticipated at the time of Macpherson’s report, but which we found raised potentially similar issues about how to ensure that police powers are fairly and effectively used, specifically, at the use of the Gangs Violence Matrix, body worn cameras and live facial recognition technology as well as new powers provided to the police to enforce covid-19 restrictions.
34.In chapter eight we trace over time the police and Government response to the Macpherson report’s finding on institutional racism and comment on the statutory framework which requires the police, together with all other public institutions, to address racism both at the level of individual prejudice and, as recognised by Macpherson, as it is embedded in structures, cultures and policies.
35.Chapter nine considers the roles of Government and policing bodies in ensuring that changes demanded by the Macpherson report are delivered in practice and that there is proper accountability for the future.
2 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, para. 3.1, February 1999.
3 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, para. 46.1, February 1999.
4 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, Chapter 47, recommendation 1, February 1999.
5 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, Chapter 47, recommendation 2, February 1999.
6 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, Chapter 47, February 1999.
7 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999.
8 House of Commons, Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, Ministerial Statement, 29 March 1999, Column 760.
9 The Guardian, Macpherson report: what was it and what impact did it have?, 22 February 2019.
10 BBC News, Stephen Lawrence murder: A timeline of how the story unfolded, 13 April 2018.
11 BBC News, Jack Straw’s full response, 25 March 1999.
12 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p7, para.15, 22 July 2009.
13 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p2, para.3, 22 July 2009.
14 Home Office, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, recommendations 12 and 14, February 1999.
15 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p3, para.4, 22 July 2009.
16 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p3, para.5, 22 July 2009; a critical incident is described by the College of Policing as “any incident where the effectiveness of the police response is likely to have a significant impact on the confidence of the victim, their family and/or the community”.
17 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p3, para.5, 22 July 2009.
18 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p7, para.16, 22 July 2009.
19 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p5, para.10, 22 July 2009.
20 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p5, para, 10, 22 July 2009.
21 Home Affairs Committee, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, HC 427, p7, para.17, 22 July 2009.
22 The Committee did not report on this inquiry in 2019 due to the House of Commons’ agreement to hold a general election on 12 December. Parliament was dissolved on 6 November 2019 and as a consequence all of the Committee’s inquiries were closed.
24 The House of Commons Workplace Equality Network, ParliREACH was established to increase awareness and appreciation of race, ethnicity and cultural heritage issues in Parliament.
25 Letter from Ed Ollard, Clerk of the Parliaments to Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, 19 February 2020; (MAC0053) the Clerk of the House March 2021.
26 The Times, Judge in Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry Sir William Macpherson dies aged 94. 15 February 2021.
27 The Guardian, Full text of Jack Straw’s statement to Parliament, 24 February 1999.
28 The Guardian, Sir William Macpherson obituary, 22 February 2021.
29 Gov.uk, Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: 16 July 2020.
30 Gov.uk, Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: 16 July 2020; Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: the Report, March 2021; National Police Chiefs’ Council, Update on the Plan of Action for inclusion and race equality in policing, 31 July 2020; Mayor of London, Action Plan – Transparency, Accountability and Trust in Policing, 13 November 2020.
31 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, Chapter 47, recommendation 1, February 1999.
32 See paragraph 2
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