In the Media

Stephen Lawrence front page 'was a monumental risk' says Daily Mail editor

PUBLISHED January 3, 2012

But Paul Dacre says his paper's famous 'Murderers' headline did 'a huge amount of good' in campaign to bring killers to justice

It is said to be the only front page to adorn the wall of Paul Dacre's office at the Daily Mail. Five men pictured under the headline, "Murderers: the Mail accuses these men of killing. If we are wrong, let them sue us."

The headline was in one sense classic Daily Mail ? bold, provocative, moralising ? but it was an unprecedented front page that helped prompt Tuesday's conviction of two of those men ? Gary Dobson and David Norris ? of the murder of Stephen Lawrence almost two decades ago.

Dacre spoke publicly on Tuesday about the front page, which shook both the media industry and the legal constitution on 14 February 1997.

"Yes, the Daily Mail took a monumental risk with that headline," the long-serving editor-in-chief said in a rare video interview on his paper's website.

"In many ways it was an unprecedented, outrageous step, but I'd like to think that as a result we did a huge amount of good and made history that day."

The murder of Stephen Lawrence prompted changes in policing, forensic science, community relations and the law. But the case also continued to make waves in the media right up to the conviction of Dobson and Norris.

The director of public prosecutions is presently considering whether the Spectator should face prosecution after a Rod Liddle comment piece threatened to derail the trial in November. Mr Justice Treacy, the Old Bailey judge in the Lawrence trial, ordered jurors not to read the magazine as it potentially breached the Criminal Justice Act.

The article allegedly flew in the face of a string of reporting restrictions placed on the media after Dobson and Norris were re-arrested and charged for the first time in September 2010. The Press Complaints Commission also had to act in July last year to warn the media after witnesses in the trial were approached by both broadcast and print journalists. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds