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Lawrence killer terms 'not lenient'

Jail sentences given to two men who murdered Stephen Lawrence were not unduly lenient, the country's top law officer has said.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve refused to refer the terms given to Gary Dobson and David Norris for the racist killing to the Court of Appeal.

Sources close to Mr Lawrence's mother Doreen said she realised the sentencing judge's hands were tied and that the decision was not a surprise.

In a statement, Mr Grieve said: "This was a despicable and appalling crime. Justice was long delayed and I can fully understand why some people are unhappy that the minimum terms handed down were not longer.

"However, having considered the sentences carefully I have come to the conclusion that the minimum terms are within the appropriate range of sentences, bearing in mind the offenders' ages at the time of the crime, and therefore I have decided not to refer them to the Court of Appeal.

"It is perhaps worth emphasising that the terms are the minimum periods that will actually be served. Dobson and Norris will not be released unless and until the Parole Board considers they do not pose a risk."

The announcement follows news earlier this week that both men are seeking to challenge their convictions.

They were sentenced to life at the Old Bailey last month. Dobson, 36, has to serve at least 15 years and two months before he becomes eligible to apply for parole while Norris, 35, must spend a minimum of 14 years and three months behind bars.

Trial judge Mr Justice Treacy said the murder was a "terrible and evil crime" and he urged police not to "close the file" on catching the rest of the 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.

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. 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."

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