The Scottish Daily Mail has claimed that the guilty verdicts handed down to two men for the murder of black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, in London in 1993, is a blow for press freedom.
The paper – north and south of the border – has devoted a large part of its edition today to reporting the conviction of the two men at the Old Bailey for the murder, with the Scottish Daily Mail setting aside pages 1 and 6-23 to the story.
Today, its front page headline is ‘Murderers!’, above mugshots of the two convicted. In 1997, it was ‘Murderers’, above mugshots of five accused.
After commending various people for bringing about ‘a glorious day for justice’, the paper’s leader column continues: “Mail readers will forgive us for if we also claim credit for our own trade. For this paper takes a special pride in the role we played in bringing Gary Dobson and David Norris to justice, when so many let the Lawrence [family] down.
“Indeed, when the entire British Press is, in a sense, on trial at the Leveson Inquiry, we believe this case offers a timely reminder of the vital importance to a healthy democracy of independent, self-regulating and viable newspapers.”
Of its 1997 front cover, it adds: “Risking action for libel and contempt of court, this paper published photographs of five young men, including Dobson and Norris, under the unprecedented front page headline: ‘MURDERERS. The Mail accuses these men of killing. If we are wrong, let them sue us.’
“This was the page that awoke the nation’s conscience – galvanising the police, politicians and the judicial system and ultimately bringing out the best in them all.”