Jane Devine: Love that endures with a rotten system

Doreen Lawrence addresses the media outside New Scotland Yard. Picture: Getty
Doreen Lawrence addresses the media outside New Scotland Yard. Picture: Getty
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Parental love is unconditional, absolute and enduring. Our children, and our undeterred attitude to protect them from anyone or anything that may harm them, is the one thing that all parents share no matter our personalities or our views – we all go out to bat for our kids.

So strong are the emotions surrounding parents and their children, that the thought of outliving them is hard to bear. Indeed there is no word in the English language for parents whose children have pre-deceased them, perhaps because it is too awful to contemplate.

Think then how much worse it is if your child is murdered and instead of having time to grieve and mourn the loss, the next 20 years is spent trying to find out what happened and why. And, just as those responsible are identified and punishment doled out more evidence is uncovetred, suggesting that the very people who should have been helping you were all the time thwarting your endeavours for justice.

Doreen and Neville Lawrence have had to endure just that. For 20 years they have had to fight for the truth about the murder of their son Stephen and at the same time fight for justice from the system that was suppose to help them do that, but seemingly, got in their way deliberately.

It is a massive blow to those already tortured parents to hear the allegations aired last week, that a former undercover police officer, Peter Francis, posed as an anti-racism campaigner after Stephen’s murder and was asked to find “dirt” on the family in a bid to discredit them.

They should not have to go through this – and they would not have to if those in charge cared enough and truly wanted to help.

The sad fact is, though, that they are not alone: look at the parents of those who died at the Hillsborough football ground disaster in 1989.

The death of 96 football fans at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium led to numerous inquiries and investigations, but because no-one in power was determined enough to get to the bottom of things, it took more than 20 years to establish any kind of truth.

Parents don’t give up, though. Did any anyone think they would? Neville and Doreen Lawrence won’t give up; the Hillsborough Justice Campaign didn’t give up; and even when the odds of securing the truth and justice are truly stacked against them, as in the case of Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was a passenger on Pam Am Flight 103 when it exploded over Lockerbie in 1988, they don’t give up.

No-one should have to go through what the Lawrences are still going through. Losing a child is bad enough.

If the current government have the empathy they should have, they certainly have the power to save the parents of Stephen Lawrence any more pain and grant them what they want: a public inquiry led by a judge – after 20 years they at least deserve that.