Greenwich backs private prosecution

THE EVIDENCE against four teenagers accused in a private prosecution of murdering black teenager Stephen Lawrence is to be tested at an old-style committal hearing.

Magistrates at Woolwich, south-east London, will begin hearing the case on 23 August. Proceedings are expected to last between five and seven days.

News of the hearing came as the local council, Greenwich, offered to help the Lawrence family pay legal bills if the case failed. Borough solicitor David Atkinson is examining ways in which the authority could help.

Council leader Len Duvall says: “It's a disgrace that the failings of the criminal justice system mean a family that has been bereaved should have to mount a private prosecution.”

Michael Mansfield QC will lead the prosecution at the committal hearing. His team has been joined by Stephen Kamlish, who represented one of the so-called “Tottenham Three”.

Kamlish, who shares Mansfield's chambers, represented Mark Braithwaite, one of the men who successfully appealed against convictions for murdering Pc Keith Blakelock during the Broadwater Farm riots 10 years ago.

Lawrence died two years ago after being stabbed by a gang of white youths. The Crown Prosecution Service later charged two youths with murder but dropped the charges.

His parents began a campaign to bring a private action.