| 7.3°C Dublin

British AG reviewing whether jail terms handed to Stephen Lawrence’s killers too "lenient"

BRITAIN’s top law officer is reviewing whether the jail terms handed out to Stephen Lawrence's killers are "unduly lenient".

A formal request to the Attorney General was made after the trial judge suggested he would have doubled the minimum sentence of Gary Dobson and David Norris if the law had allowed.

A member of the public applied for the review yesterday within hours of the killers being jailed at the Old Bailey.

A spokesman for the Attorney General said the individual who sparked the review was unconnected to the Lawrence family.

The Attorney General has no choice but to review the sentence as part of his public interest function.

"Anybody can request that we look at the case," the spokesman said. "We will consider it in the normal way."

The office has received just one referral so far, the spokesman said.

The development came as police assessed new information as part of efforts to hunt down other suspects in the 1993 racist murder.

Scotland Yard has denied claims the investigation was being scaled down, with Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe saying other suspects will not be allowed to "rest easily in their beds".

Dobson, 36, who is already serving a five-year sentence for drug-dealing, was sentenced to at least 15 years and two months.

Norris, 35, was given a minimum of 14 years and three months for the murder, which the judge said was a "terrible and evil crime".

Mr Justice Treacy urged police not to "close the file" on catching the rest of his killers after the court heard that a gang of five or six white youths set upon the A-level student in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993.

Police are following up new information they have received since Tuesday's guilty verdicts.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We can confirm that we have received a number of telephone calls in light of the verdicts and today's sentencing. This information will be evaluated."

Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll, who has been the senior officer in the case for a number of years, has said officers would be visiting Dobson and Norris in prison to see whether they would be willing to assist the inquiry and said he remained "optimistic" about further progress being made in the case.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mr Lawrence's mother Doreen said of the sentences: "They took my son's life, so I feel they should be given life with a minimum of 20 years.

"Their age had nothing to do with it. They had the same mindset at 16 and 17 that they probably still have now.

"I would have liked longer sentences but the law is the law."

Referring to the rest of the killers, she told the newspaper: "I'm hoping that, eventually, Dobson and Norris will give up the others; that they won't take the whole guilty vote for themselves.

"I want to get the others, but I also want a life."

Mr Lawrence's father Neville has said he hoped the pair would "give up the rest of the people" involved.

Mr Justice Treacy said the murder was committed "for no other reason than racial hatred".

Referring to the length of sentence, he said: "In short, the law dictates that I must sentence you by reference to your age and maturity at the time of the crime. I cannot sentence you as the mature men you now are.

"In addition I must sentence you in accordance with the practice in force before the coming into force of Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which now governs sentencing for more modern murders ...

"It may be, therefore, that the resultant sentences are lower than some might expect, but the law as laid down by Parliament must be applied and I am constrained by it."

It is understood that a decision will be made on whether to keep the men at Belmarsh prison, south-east London, where Norris has previously been beaten up.