A BRITISH judge sentenced two men Wednesday to at least 14 years in prison for stabbing a black teenager to death in London almost two decades ago. The crime exposed racism within the police force and set the victim's family on a long quest for justice.
The murder of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence in 1993 shocked the country and came to be seen as a festering racial injustice. It took 19 years before anyone was convicted, and three other suspects remain at large.
Judge Colman Treacy called the murder an evil crime motivated by racial hatred. He sentenced Gary Dobson to a minimum of 15 years and 2 months in jail, and David Norris to 14 years and 3 months.
Dobson's father shouted out "shame on you" from the public gallery after the sentence was announced at London's Central Criminal Court. As the judge stood up to leave after delivering his sentence, a few people began to clap.
Norris gave a thumbs up sign to his supporters in the public gallery as he was led from court. Both men maintain they are innocent.
Treacy said the sentences were shorter than many would have expected as both men were teenagers when the crime took place.
Treacy said that an adult today, convicted of a racist knife murder, would get a minimum of 30 years in jail, but as Dobson was 17 and Norris just 16 at the time of the crime, he only had to give them a minimum of 12 years.
He added extra time because of the racist nature of their attack and because neither had shown any remorse.
Outside court, Lawrence's mother Doreen Lawrence said the killers had received short sentences but "the judge's hands were tied."
She said the sentences were "the beginning of starting a new life because we've been in limbo for so long."
"So today we're going to start moving on, and it's time to take control of my life once more," she said.
While sentencing Dobson and Norris, Treacy said the two belonged to a "racist, thuggish gang."
He said the evidence in the trial could not prove who wielded the knife that killed Lawrence, but he said that whoever used it had done so with Dobson and Norris's "knowledge and approval."
Another three men had been initially arrested after Lawrence's murder, but have never been convicted of the crime.
Outside court, Stephen's father Neville Lawrence said he hoped Dobson and Norris would now identify other members of the gang.
He said they should "go and lay down in their bed and think that they weren't the only ones who were responsible for the death of my son."