A new TV drama series about the investigation into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence has been accused of downplaying the role of the Daily Mail in bringing the killers to justice.
Actor Steve Coogan stars as the detective whose remorseless work was crucial to two men being convicted of murder.
The officer, Clive Driscoll, joined the murder investigation in 2006, 13 years after Stephen was killed by a gang of white men in a racist attack in Eltham, South London.
However, that was nine years after the Daily Mail launched a campaign to bring the 18-year-old’s killers to justice after a series of police blunders that led to the investigation stalling.
A new TV drama series starring Steve Coogan about the investigation into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence has been accused of downplaying the role of the Daily Mail in bringing the killers to justice
Steve Coogan’s character, Clive Driscoll, joined the murder investigation in 2006, 13 years after Stephen (pictured) was killed by a gang of white men in a racist attack in Eltham, London
Yesterday, MP Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, spoke of his surprise that the series – called Stephen and due to air later this month – will not include plot lines or scenes that relate to the Mail’s Justice For Stephen Lawrence campaign.
He said the decision was ‘an extraordinary oversight’, adding: ‘It seems bizarre that a drama depicting the horrific events and pursuit of justice doesn’t take account of one of the most effective and worthy campaigns in Fleet Street history.’
Hat Trick Productions, which is owned by Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio and is behind the series, said it had chosen to concentrate on other aspects of the case, although, at the end of the first episode viewers will see the Mail’s 1997 front page which branded five suspects as ‘Murderers’.
None of the characters is based on journalists, such as the paper’s then Editor, Paul Dacre, who has said he was inspired to fight for justice after watching the ‘sickening and arrogant contempt of the suspects in refusing to answer any questions at the inquest’.
Yesterday, MP Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, spoke of his surprise that the series will not include plot lines or scenes that relate to the Mail’s Justice For Stephen Lawrence campaign
Coogan describes his character, DCI Clive Driscoll, now 70, as someone with ‘ordinary decency’ who proved that ‘doing the right thing sometimes makes sense’.
The actor has long been a critic of the Daily Mail and a supporter of anti-Press lobby group Hacked Off. Coogan, 55, has said: ‘If the Daily Mail went to the wall tomorrow, I’d be delighted. There are lots of other, better, newspapers – it’s worse than the tabloids.’
The ITV series will feature the brave fight of Stephen’s parents Doreen (now a peer) and Neville, played in the drama by Sharlene Whyte and Hugh Quarshie.
Doreen has said that until the Mail’s controversial front page: ‘Nobody – apart from those in their local neighbourhood – really knew what these boys looked like. Then the whole country knew.
‘If the Mail hadn’t been publicising what was happening around Stephen and getting it out there, a lot of people wouldn’t have known about the injustice around him as a young man.’
Following its 1997 Murderers front-page headline, the Mail ran numerous stories on the case, chronicling moves to reform double jeopardy laws to allow Stephen’s killers to stand trial a second time, the setting up of a public inquiry and the scandal of how bungling police officers escaped sanction.
The Daily Mail’s 1997 Stephen Lawrence front-page headline: ‘Murderers’, above pictures of the five main suspects with the words: ‘The Mail accuses these men of killing. If we are wrong, let them sue us’
After Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered the judicial inquiry into the killing, the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon apologised to the Lawrences, admitting failures in the investigation.
Then, in 2002, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone.
But three years later the Government dropped the legal principle that prevented suspects being tried twice for the same crime and police announced they were investigating new forensic evidence in 2005.
Finally, in 2011, Gary Dobson and David Norris were put on trial at the Old Bailey and found guilty of murder. Dobson was jailed for a minimum of 15 years and Norris for 14 years.
Coogan, best known for his comic character Alan Partridge, said: ‘I don’t often play nice people, so it was a nice change to play someone with a simple, unannounced integrity.’