Citizenship GCSE: Democracy and Justice

This short film examines the public inquiry into the failures of the original investigation and the changes in the law that mean suspects can be retried.

Pupils will see the editor of the Daily Mail explaining the infamous ‘MURDERERS’ headline, and interviews between the press and the main suspects.

The discussion centres on the initial failure to achieve justice for the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the process leading to the eventual conviction of two of the perpetrators, as well as the response of the media and the role of parliament in addressing flaws within the criminal justice system.

This short film could be drawn on as part of the annual national Stephen Lawrence Day on 22nd April. For more information visit the Stephen Lawrence Day website.

PLEASE NOTE: This short film contains behaviour which could be imitated. Teacher review is recommended prior to use in class.

Teacher Notes

Possible areas of enquiry:

These questions can be single lesson titles within a larger scheme of learning or big enquiry questions to inform a unit of work. In which case, this short film can be used as a stimulus to support any of these areas.

  • Is justice always achieved in the criminal justice system?
  • How effective is parliament in ensuring the rule of law is upheld?
  • To what extent should the media be limited in a democracy?

Before watching the film

This short film is suitable for students aged 14-16, however it is important to preface that some background knowledge on the murder of Stephen Lawrence should be addressed prior to showing the film in class.

During the lesson - Before watching the film

To begin, encourage students to become familiar with some of the key vocabulary that is used in the film or recap if they have already learnt these terms, such as: Inquest, Parliamentary Inquiry, Double Jeopardy, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and Institutional Racism.

NB: You can review the definition in either a gap fill activity or challenge students to explain how these terms may be linked and how it connects to the Stephen Lawrence story. (5 min)

In order to get students thinking and understanding some of the underlining issues raised in the film, ask them to discuss the following talking points below.

NB: This can be done in small groups or pairs for around 10 minutes.

Provide students with a guideline on expectations for the discussion beforehand and appoint a chairperson if it is in groups, who will help facilitate the discussion in their small groups.

Talking points

  • What are the key principles of law? (Answers - Rule of law, Access to Justice, Equality before the law, Innocent until proven guilty)
  • Why is the rule of law a significant part of our democracy?
  • What does it mean to achieve justice and why is it important?
  • To what extent does having access to justice mean justice is always achieved?

While facilitating the discussion, probe students on some of the talking points/questions.

Ask some students; what factors can limit achieving justice and equality before the law? How might the government or parliament address these factors? (20 minutes)

While watching the film - Activity

Begin to watch the film.

It might be worthwhile to provide an activity sheet with a range of questions around the film and pause at intervals to facilitate further discussion around the key issues raised in different parts of the film.

Task - students watch (0:00 - 01.58 sec) and answer the following:

  • Why did the CPS end their investigation and drop the charges of the Stephen Lawrence murder?
  • Why did the private prosecution fail?
  • What were the consequences of their failure to prosecute?

Pause the film.

Task: In a turn and talk activity ask students to discuss the following in pairs:

  • How might the victim’s family feel when the CPS dropped all charges of those accused?
  • What might have been the reaction of the public and how could this impact their view of the CPS?
  • Why might it be important to put suspects on trial?

Continue watching the film.

Task - students watch (01.59 – 07.50) and answer the following:

  • What were the actions of the Daily Mail?
  • Why were the Daily Mail criticised for how they reported?
  • To what extent was it right for the Daily Mail to call the suspects murderers without having faced trial?
  • What was the Macpherson Report and why was it so significant?
  • How did Parliament respond to the Macpherson Report and to what extent was this enough?

Pause the film.

Task: In a turn and talk activity ask students to discuss the following in pairs:

  • Does the double jeopardy law ensure equality before the law or prevent access to justice?

Continue watching the film to the end. (07.50 – 09.40).

NB: provide additional time for students to complete all questions in relation to the film.

After watching the film - Activity

Reflection task:

After watching this short film allow time for review and feedback and for students to apply what they have learnt from the film linking this to the extended writing section of the GCSE citizenship exam.

Prior to writing, it would be good for students to consolidate their understanding of the key concepts by talking and summarizing some of the key points.

NB: One way you can do this is by providing a range of statements that present arguments for and against (see examples below).

You can get students active by labeling one side of the classroom for and the other against and asking students to stand on the side which best reflects their view.

This will also be a good opportunity to get students to provide a reasoned and well-justified judgment, extending their responses and making links to the film, using Stephen Lawrence’s case as an example.

Extend writing statements:

  • ‘In a democracy, you will always achieve justice’ how far do you agree?
  • ‘The media must always report the facts without biases' how far do you agree?
  • ‘Parliament is effective in implementing new laws to address issues within the criminal justice system and society’ how far do you agree?

NB: You can spend the rest of the time answering one of the extended writing statements or if there is not enough time, get students to write one argument for and against. (20 min)

Curriculum Notes

This short film supports understanding around GCSE citizenship concepts linking to democracy, justice, media, and parliament and campaigning.

It provides for an opportunity to use the Stephen Lawrence case as a focus case study whilst drawing on multiple concepts.

The discussion centres on the initial failure to achieve justice for the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the process leading to the eventual conviction of two of the perpetrators. As well as the response of the media and the role of parliament in addressing flaws within the criminal justice system.

Whilst different specification may require different skills, this resource provides clear links to most exam boards for GCSE citizenship studies.

In particular, it allows for greater synoptic links, as it intersects a range of topics/themes in 10 minutes.

As such, this can be used to teach and introduce new concepts or as a revision tool to elicit students ability to link concepts across themes enhancing their synoptic writing.

More from Stephen: The Murder that Changed a Nation

Diversity and Identity
video
Racism and Institutional Racism
video