I'm sure a number of our UK based posters (particularly the ones older than myself) may be well aquainted with this lengthy, drawn out terrible business which reached its conclusion in court today with the two accused gentlemen being found guilty for the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence 18 years ago. I believe that the defendants in this case were guilty, and some form of justice has been served here, but the cost at which it has come doesn't really sit well with me (but more of that later).
What concerns me primarily, is how politically inspired changes to the criminal justice system have eroded civil liberties. Foremost amongst these have been the diminution of the right to silence and the lifting of the double jeopardy rule. I believe that the decision today means that we will now reap the consequences of the latter.
It was this particular case and these particular defendants that led to David Blunket's decision to abolish centuries of legal tradition and remove the double jeopardy protection in the Criminal Justice Act. As a result, the defendants here have been convicted and will be condemned on the flimsiest of evidence brought forward in a desperate attempt to apportion blame for an appalling and senseless killing which, under normal circumstances, would have been regarded but tragic but unsolvable.
I feel very sorry for the Lawrence family. Their grief and sense of injustice would only have been compounded had any other conclusion been reached from this trial. However, now that a conviction has been achieved, there will surely be an appeal and the whole sorry story will be dragged out even further which will only leave a legacy of bitterness and uncertainty.
As I said before, I do believe that the defendants in question did indeed what they were accused of. But to find them guilty on the basis of forensic evidence which at best (even if it was deemed as reliable) merely puts them at the scene of the crime strikes me as a very dangerous precedent indeed. There is something about this that really puts me at a deep sense of unease.