Every month, in a relaxed location in central London the London Legal Salon will meet to discuss the big questions facing the law today. Attendance is always free. This blog will publish articles by attendees and the organisers to supplement the debates at our monthly meetings.

Every meeting will be introduced by a short talk from a lawyer or commentator in the area under examination. The discussion will then be opened to those attending to make contributions or ask questions. The meetings will last around ninety minutes and operate under Chatham House rules.

The discussions and the articles on this website will look to scrutinise the black letter of the law and its implications in the Courts and wider society. They will also look to situate the law in its historical and political context. We hope that by developing an understanding of where the law has come from, and why the law has taken the form it has today, we may begin to form an idea of where we want it to go.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Tuesday 31st January: The Stephen Lawrence Verdicts

On Tuesday 31st January at 1930 the London Legal Salon will discuss the verdicts in the Stephen Lawrence case.  The discussion will take place at the Hoop and Grapes at 80 Farringdon Street.(http://www.thehoopandgrapes.co.uk/).  We look forward to seeing you there!
On the 3rd of January, David Norris and Gary Dobson were convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Crown Prosecution Service called the case the ‘most significant of a generation’.

Many celebrated the verdicts as a victory for justice over prejudice; one which went some way to purging the bungling police investigation into the murder in 1993. But others felt some unease with the way in which these defendants were treated. Dobson became one of few defendants to be retried following the quashing of his acquittal by the Court of Appeal under provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which abrogated the ancient principle that a defendant should not be tried for the same crime twice. The jury were shown footage of the defendants making racist remarks and acting out violence taken from surveillance cameras secreted in Dobson’s home, evidence which would have been inadmissible before 2003. Further, the pair had suffered such wide spread adverse publicity in the intervening years that many thought a fair trial was impossible.

Whilst few will feel any sympathy for Norris and Dobson, their conviction raises important questions about the principles that underpin our criminal justice system. Should Dobson have faced a trial for an offence he had been acquitted of? How should the criminal justice system accommodate developments in science and technology? Did the men receive a fair trial? What is the legacy of the Lawrence convictions for the criminal justice system and society as a whole?

Rob Lyons: Writer for Spiked Online (http://www.spiked-online.org.uk/); Author of ‘Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder’ (http://www.paniconaplate.com/).

Aneurin Brewer: Barrister at 9 Bedford Row, practising in Criminal Law.

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