Two to be sentenced for Stephen Lawrence murder

LONDON—Two men are to be sentenced Wednesday for the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in a case that has taken Britain nearly two decades to bring anyone to justice.

Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, were 17 and 16 at the time of the 1993 stabbing. Sentencing guidelines for offenders under 18 were less severe then, so they each are expected to receive a sentence of at least 12 years.

Had they committed the crime in the last year, Dobson and Norris would face minimum terms of 25 years for a racially aggravated knife murder, the same as an adult sentence.

The judge does have some discretion to set a longer sentence, taking into account that the attack was racially motivated and that one of the gang involved in the killing carried a knife.

The investigation—which has seen multiple court appearances by suspects over the years but no convictions until Tuesday—led to strong criticism of London’s Metropolitan Police and resulted in an investigation that found the force was “institutionally racist” and had bungled evidence-gathering.

It also led to a change in Britain’s double jeopardy rules, permitting a second prosecution if compelling new evidence emerges.

The jury at the Lawrence trial were not told that Dobson already is in jail for a drug conviction. Norris has been in and out of prison for other convictions. In 2002, he was jailed after shouting a racist insult at a police officer and later jailed again for stealing a car.

Both men’s lawyers argued during the trial that the strain of being accused of Lawrence’s murder has already affected their lives.

Defense lawyer Stephen Moses said Dobson had no previous conviction for violence at the time of the attack and came from a loving family. Fellow defense attorney Stephen Batten said Norris’s marriage had broken up under the strain of the long investigation.

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