SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Justice for Stephen and Duwayne

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, met Neville Lawrence before I did. More than 23 years ago when I served as MP for Woolwich West/Eltham in southeast London, I visited another home in Llanover Road in Plumstead after a tragic house fire caused the deaths of young children.

It was horrible to return weeks later to join the family and friends of Stephen Lawrence who had suffered a fatal knife attack when trying to catch a bus with his friend Duwayne Brooks.

Stephen died; Duwayne was treated badly even though he too had been a victim.

My wish has been that more parents try to raise their children the way Doreen and Neville led their three towards adulthood.

It was a total contrast to the upbringing of those suspected and those convicted for the murder of Stephen.

This week I have had another interview about the events that followed in 1993, including the meeting I had with the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police concerning the worries of the family about the competence of the police investigation.

Later, the two other local MPs successfully asked Home Secretary Jack Straw for the Lawrence Inquiry led by Lord Macpherson.

Two who helped him were John Sentamu, now Archbishop of York, and Dr Richard Stone, a great human rights campaigner. Each is a friend.

The greatest helpers to the Lawrence family included Ros Howells, now a Baroness in the Lords, and David Cruise, the local Methodist minister.

Neville Lawrence and I talked while driving around London. He said he told his children about being trusted to work in other people’s homes.

That is where Paul Dacre came in. I backed his front page accusation against the murder suspects.

That is one reason why I generally oppose pre-publication restraint on media.

Many of us did something for Stephen and for Duwayne; many of us could have done more.

Knowing that can be a burden; knowing that can be an inspiration.

Also this week I have attended separate Westminster meetings on chronic fatigue syndrome/ME and on autism.

Later, a group including a teacher, parent, governor and some children came with a scroll to the Commons for an update in fairer funding for schools, and I add, for our colleges.

Over nearly two years, West Sussex MPs have worked together with heads, governors and parents.

There has been some welcome movement.

Within two years, secondary schools in particular will be in a better position.

With the privilege of this column, I avoid seeking or raising issues in dispute between political parties or their supporters.

I trust it is all right to suggest we can do best for West Sussex when we listen to each other and when we work together for the common good.

The highlight this week was the celebratory lunch for the charming funny tough Baroness Trumpington, Jean Trumpington.

I sat opposite her on the day she retired triumphantly after her decades of active service in the House of Lords.

By me were Richard Charteres, retired Bishop of London and Sir John Major the former Prime Minister who has known me since the early 1970s, before either of us was first elected.

He said he was surprised that I entered the Commons before him; I said it was not a surprise he ascended to higher responsibilities.

At every level, we share the task of seeking justice for others.