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Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 13:01 GMT
How violent is Britain?

The killing of 10 year-old Damilola Taylor has shocked Britain. He bled to death after being stabbed on his way home from school in Peckham, south London.

Peckham has traditionally suffered from high levels of unemployment and social deprivation. But crime rates in the neighbourhood have recently gone down, compared to the rest of London.

In fact, the latest figures suggest that crime is much less common than people believe, but Damilola's death has left many feeling angry and vulnerable.

How violent do you think Britain is? Is Damilola's death so shocking because it is uncommon for someone so young to be brutally murdered? Or does it raise a more fundamental concern about British society? How does it compare to other countries?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Death becomes a sound bite in the ratings war

James Harkness, UK
It sickens me that New Labour have so blatantly hijacked the death of this child for their own political agenda. Death becomes a sound bite in the ratings war as we enter into the run-up for the next election. Truly outrageous!
James Harkness, UK

From an inner city area, I know what the streets are like - they are a police free zone. Now that a child has died they see the problems faced by us people and until they solve the social and economic factors these problems will continue.
Naveed, England

My sincere apologies go out to the Taylor family. I understand what it must have been like for them. I am from West Africa (Ghana) and I attended school in South London. I was bullied by mainly West Indian children because of my African origin and I had nobody to turn to. I now hope that out of tragedy comes realisation and hope and that it has highlighted a serious matter to everybody. Damilola rest in peace
Barbara Adjei, UK

With all the sympathy one can give to the parents and family at the loss of a son. However for his father to insult British parents, police and society, the question must be asked, why did he send his son here when he quite clearly stated that this would not have happened at home? I hope the persons concerned are caught and punished. I also hope that our Government stands up and gets counted on such a radical and damnimg statement on Britian.
Greg Muscat, UK

Officers who are "stuck" in the job count the minutes to retirement

Paul, UK
In my area of London there are on average six uniform police officers on duty on any one Friday/Saturday night. It is not rocket science is it! There is such a shortage of police officers in London. People won't join the police for numerous reasons the main one is the red tape they have to encounter trying to do the job. Recently 185 recruits joined the Metropolitan Police Service. At the end of the course over half had resigned. This is happening time and time again. Officers who are "stuck" in the job count the minutes to retirement.
Paul, UK

Last weekend, I flew home to London from Munich to visit my family. As I boarded the plane, I picked up the in-flight copy of the "Evening Standard" only to be faced with the shocking story of young Damiola's death

I have been in Germany for four months now and memories of hurrying home from the station, nervously looking over my shoulder at the groups of youths hanging around the station after dark, wondering if tonight was the night I get mugged on the way home are fast fading. I feel saddened to think that I spent two whole years of my life looking over my shoulder after dark, fearing for my own safety. But then, I lived in Northwest London. It was a way of life.

I think Damiola's death has forced everyone to sit up and realise what London has now become. The day when the death of a 10-year old becomes the "way of life" in London, that's the day you know there is no hope for the future.
Nisar Zaker, Germany

I have lived in the UK all my life, 33 years, the last 15 in London and have NEVER been involved in a violent incident or threatened or mugged. Having travelled extensively I don't overall feel that the UK is any more violent than America (both north and south) or Australia.

I'd also like to make one point to Sandy from the USA regarding Mayor Gulliani's zero-tolerance policy. Such a policy has lead to the dramatic increase in the number of innocent people being killed by the police, like a recent case where an unarmed man was shot over 60 times by police officers. Australia, has its violent criminals too and the reason that so many Brits live in OZ is that the weather, nothing more and nothing less.
Peter, UK

Working in an Accident & Emergency department in the inner London area, I think that London is very violent. I sometimes cannot leave my department at night without thinking that I might be assaulted. Such a shameful thing to happen in a city that everybody else in the world would perceive it as a city of culture and tranquillity
Dr. Tarik Al-Janabi, UK

I have lived in and travelled to Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, and the USA. Whatever, the statistics regarding violence I have no doubt that Britain feels the most dangerous of these countries. Perhaps it is the alcohol, the endemic racism or simply the habit of mindless thuggery but this hostile climate is something we should all be ashamed of.
Alison Tomura, UK

It raises a concern about society in many of our countries

Esther Mahgoube, USA
I am an African American woman living in America. I have lived here all of my life. My husband is from South Africa and has lived in London for 6 years, Egypt for three years and Australia for two years. After discussing this issue, we share similar thoughts. First, our hearts go out to Damiloli's loved ones. This is indeed a tragedy.

It is unfortunate that we live in a world where some humans react so violently when faced with circumstances beyond their control or those circumstances in which they have made a choice to be a part of. That's the mystery of the human mind. This incident is no comparison to the number of incidents in America in which our children are brutally hurt physically and mentally and many cases killed as a result. This does raise a fundamental concern about society in Britain but it also raises a concern about society in many of our countries.
Esther Mahgoube, USA

The working classes in this country have been brutalised and demeaned for the past 25 years. Some respond hopelessly and negatively. All the ex-pats seem quite smug that they've left it all behind in the USA or Canada. They probably never went anywhere near somewhere like Peckham when they lived here and voted Tory when they did. Some of us still try to endorse strong values of self-respect and love in our kids - it's not easy but then it never was for poor people in this country. God bless that little boy.
Stuart, UK

Tragedies such as this prove that banning firearms does not prevent someone from killing. If it is in a person's mind to slay someone, they will use whatever weapon is most convenient for them. Will the UK now ban knives in response to this stabbing?
C. Burns, USA

I must say I find it hugely distasteful that political mileage should be a feature of the aftermath

Rob King, UK
Having just watched the memorial service on this site, and having listened to all the discussion since this admittedly terrible murder, I must say I find it hugely distasteful that political mileage should be a feature of the aftermath. Quite why the likes of Jack Straw and Paul Boateng have chosen to make policy announcements at a time when the family should be left in peace, but instead are being filmed grieving at the murder scene is beyond me.
Rob King, UK

SK feels that US TV and movies are responsible for the violence in the UK. The murder rate in Chicago is 10 times that of Toronto, where I now live, yet both cities see the same movies and TV. Japan has violent TV, films and comics yet has far lower crime than the UK. Surely these tragic events occur because the children and adults involved have no sense of moral responsibility and know they WILL get away with it - even if they are caught. The powers-that-be in the UK seem to care too much about people's rights and not enough about their responsibilities to others.
AG, Canada/UK

As a willingly 'exiled' Brit, I think the country could learn a bit about what a 'community' is. You only need to look south to the Mediterranean countries to see the social respect and interaction that is so obviously lacking in many parts of the UK.
David Griffiths, Spain

All that dramatic posturing by politicians is just lip-service. Nothing more. With an election coming up and the media casting their sights on UK's violent culture, the government naturally has to be seen to be tough. Otherwise the opposition will have some useful ammunition for their campaign. In reality, when it's all blown over, Peckham and all those other socially deprived estates will be forgotten again and those communities will be left to continue their miserable war against the ever corroding quality of their lives.
Erica, UK

The fact that a single murder is so out of the ordinary that it causes outrage throughout the country indicates the rarity of events of this type. In many of the countries within which some of our sanctimonious contributors reside, this type of crime - and worse - are commonplace and yet do not raise any interest. Check out the FACTS. The rates of murder, rape and other violent crimes in Bogota, Caracas, Washington DC, Johannesburg - the list goes on and on and on - are hugely greater than for comparable cities in the UK. I really think that a reality check is in order here.
Iain Howe, UK

Every year I visit I feel increasingly uneasy and at risk in what is my hometown

Anthony Artist, Thailand
I haven't lived in the UK for about 4 years but make annual visits to my parents in Bradford. Every year I visit I feel increasingly uneasy and at risk in what is my hometown. Even walking round the centre of the city during lunchtime I could smell tension and fear in the air. The root of the problem came from gangs of youths with little respect for any person or property hanging around the shopping centres. My caring parents have often warned me to take care whilst travelling, especially visiting places such as Caracas and Bogota, but the fear I feel in Bradford far outweighs these internationally recognised 'dangerous' cities. I now reside in Bangkok and am happy and safe. I am not sure when I will return to live in the UK but the escalating violence is likely to make it later than sooner.
Anthony Artist, Thailand

Having recently travelled to the UK I was somewhat shocked by what I found. I always associated senseless violence, rudeness and high crime rates with the US, but I found all 3 in the UK. I always imagined that the British were so well behaved, but I was proved wrong time and again. I am not surprised by Damilola's death. What I am surprised about is that anyone in Britain cares. No wonder there are so many Brits in Australia!
Catherine, Australia

It is important that young people in Britain are helped to develop a sense of community and respect for others

Mick Mather, Britain
It is important that young people in Britain are helped to develop a sense of community and respect for others. One way to do this is through the primary school system where 'civics' should be taught from an early age. It is also important that the UK gets a bill of rights. Bullying and aggression should be seen not only as violence but also as denying someone their right to live without being oppressed.
Mick Mather, Britain

I think everyone should be outraged by the murder of a child, but it is even more important that something is done about it. I live in Washington D.C. and people, children even, are killed in astonishing numbers and their faces never make it to the local, let alone national radar screen. To make it to the news, the victim has to be rich and white, while those of us in the ghetto can rattle off lists of neighbourhood murder victims, the names of whom are unknown to those outside the neighbourhood. There is a lesson to be learned in this, I just hope that after Britain wipes her collective tears, she can take the time to learn it.
Lisette, USA

The UK at least still has a sense of outrage where violence is concerned

Mark, UK
In response to Takhar Ranj from Canada. My experience of this country has been quite the opposite. Being half British (white, upper class mother) and half Veddah (Indian, lowest class father) has never been seen as problem. Compared with India where 'institutional racism' takes on a whole new meaning and even our Hindi name means 'untouchable', this country is perfectly civilised. The UK at least still has a sense of outrage where violence is concerned. These incidents are confined to areas of poverty and even then are unique. Murders (yes even in Canada) are measured in their thousands, whereas in the UK there were only 150. So to reassure Shar of the USA, I hardly think the daggers will be out at Petworth Park.
Mark, UK

Three years ago I moved from South London to Cheltenham, largely because I was fed up at constantly having to be on my guard when out after dark. Unfortunately nothing much has changed. It has come to a sad state of affairs when every day in the local paper I read of serious assault, robbery and see behaviour as unpleasant as anything in the big cities. A short term solution is for the law to allow people the right of self-defence without fear of prosecution. In the longer term we've got to get reverse the trend towards an increasingly permissive society which 'smiles' at the behaviour of 'high-profile' yobs like Liam Gallagher and Paul Gascoigne and which treats criminal like the Krays as celebrities.
Alex, UK

Most violence in this country is caused by a tiny minority

Hex, UK
I can also testify that being an adult man in his 20s does not leave you immune. I have been attacked in recent weeks by some 13 year old kids. They knew that they could do so with impunity since the law would punish me for retaliating. Luckily I was able to persuade them that I was not frightened and that I was capable of genuine retaliation if they pushed me too far but it is indicative of a general culture of lawlessness and violence among young people that such a thing would happen in the first place.

Unfortunately it is difficult to know how to stop this type of thing except through a slow process of re-education. However, despite these events I would dispute claims that Britain is a country with a serious violence problem. Most violence in this country is caused by a tiny minority whose actions unfortunately have a disproportionate impact on our society.
Hex, UK

If we want to reduce the violence get rid of alcohol. In well over half of all violent assaults and in approximately 75% of domestic violence alcohol is cited as the main cause. We know that drugs are the cause of so much crime, alcohol, another drug, is behind so much violence. Ban alcohol we reduce violence by over half instantly but is it a sacrifice we are prepared to make?
F.Davies, U.K

It is a caring government that expresses strong sympathies and visits crime / murder / flood scenes. All very short term PR stunts I believe. Of course, who is not upset and distressed by these stories but is anything long term actually done? NO - look at James Bulger, Steven Lawrence and countless others. It all paints a very disillusioning picture of the UK and its government - so many problems that are so deeply ingrained in our society that I wonder how one government whose number one priority is its image today can ever scratch the surface. I am an entrepreneur with three companies. Today after being delayed an hour by a cancelled train I had to ring around and apologise to many customers because of a postal strike and last night another burned out car was dumped in one of my fields. What a truly wonderful country Britain is!
NR, Cardiff

Where did you get the idea that this shocked Britain? We've been saying for quite a while that kids today are getting more violent, less respectful and generally ruder. What can you expect when simple discipline can be believed to be abuse in today's world. If you smack a child's hand because he was about to put it on a cooker and the child cries you can be labelled as beating the child! In a world where parents (an increasing number of them teenagers) are afraid to use any discipline children are going to get worse and worse, and more things will happen to them.
Paul Charters, England

If they can't control drunks how do you expect them to make a dent on violence?

Sandy, USA
Having lived in London for several years, and as frequent visitor to the UK I would not hesitate to say that I feel more threatened and unsafe in the UK than I would in New York. Part of this is the feeling that your police force is completely ineffective at even controlling the drunken louts one so commonly encounters in the streets at all hours. If they can't control drunks how do you expect them to make a dent on violence?

I also agree that Britain's permissive attitude towards alcohol is also partly to blame for much of the street violence one encounters in London. We've plenty of drunken louts in New York too, but these drunks know that their behaviour will not be tolerated by the police. Hence, it is rare to see groups of threatening young people staggering down the street on a Friday night (a common site that I've witnessed far too many times in Britain). I think you could benefit from some of our Mayor Giuliani's "zero tolerance" philosophy. I also think that it is unrealistic in this day and age to have a police force that is unarmed.
Sandy, USA

I always liked to think that violence in Britain was overrated, but in the last few days I have been proven wrong. On Saturday evening I was threatened by 3 teenagers, who, although I manage to look quite bulky and menacing, where not impressed at all. And on Sunday an office underneath my flat was broken into. It took more than an hour for the police to arrive. It is the helplessness more than anything else that makes it bad. I feel unprotected and left to my own devices. Sometimes I think carrying a weapon would make me feel safer, but then again, if I can get hold of a gun, so can criminals, so what's the point. I am sending my kids to martial arts courses, not because I think sport is good for them but because it might save their lives.
Dick Burton, UK

The common thread here is that youth are seemingly 'out of control'. I myself have been mugged twice in 2 years by gangs of children (14-18 years ). We are surrounded in our area by groups of children drinking in the street and abusing passers-by. Our police station is closed at night! Yes it may be the parents' responsibility, but sadly many of the same will be as bad as their children. Policing is a sad but necessary need to protect the basic human rights such as being able to walk in the open air for those who are the real victims today.
Rich Se London, UK

After all action costs and talk is cheap

Peter, UK
This is a topic that demands strong leadership, but where in the UK are we to get this from? We are let down by a government that thinks image is all. Jack Straw probably doesn't even understand why his appearance in Peckham hasn't brought all crime in the area to a complete halt. The opposition is all but useless, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. In the wider community religion is now so insignificant as to almost not exist, and the police are now so attacked and demoralised that they can barely act as anything other than a service for recording crimes that the public, hoping something can be "done", naively report.

At the end what is the result, a poor little 10 year old boy lies needlessly dead on a slab - while people like us chatter on about how terrible it is, why it happened and whose fault it is. Nothing will be done, it never is, after all action costs and talk is cheap.
Peter, UK

It is important that young people in Britain are helped to develop a sense of community and respect for others. One way to do this is through the primary school system where "civics" should be taught from an early age. It is also important that the UK gets a bill of rights. Bullying and aggression should be seen not only as violence but also as denying someone their right to live without being oppressed.
Mick Mather, Britain

What these responses seem to share is a disappointment in the systems of control

Kevin Myers, Bangor, UK
Reading the comments posted here, I see a great deal of confusion and dismay reflected, and these are obviously very natural emotions. However, what these responses seem to share is a disappointment in the systems of control, systems of government that, they seem to think, should be able to control and prevent the spread of violence. We have a responsibility to teach children not only by rhetoric but by example. The search for personal gain may seem innocuous enough, but violence is the inevitable conclusion in a world where there is, no longer, any ultimate authority to whom we can appeal.
Kevin Myers, Bangor, UK

All of a sudden the killing of a young boy jolts the nation into saying that Britain is violent. Britain has been violent for many years but successive governments have turned a blind eye to it, preferring to listen to do-gooders saying we must help the criminals and not the victims. How many times have we heard that harsh punishments do no good and we should treat criminals with kid gloves. Well if they are right then how come the harsher sentences for drunk driving have worked and reduced this crime drastically.
Pierre, England

When I read some of the comments here I wonder are they talking about the same country that I have lived over thirty years in. I have never been a victim of any violence or seen any. Nor have a wide circle of friends, family or acquaintances. Have we just all been incredibly lucky? I don't think so. I think people are making judgments on newspaper reports or their own prejudices and some have obviously never even visited Britain! The truth is violence happens in every country but statistically Britain is well below that of many other countries.

We should be thankful that the majority of us can still live peacefully in Britain and stop exaggerating. Perhaps if people travelled a bit more they might be able to put things into a better perspective.
Anne, U.A.E.

I am from the north of England - South Shields, I have been in South Africa for eight years now. I read the BBC news to catch up with what is going on in the World. The English are so lucky - here we hear about people being murdered, raped, hijacked through friends as it is so common it does not even reach local newspapers or radio news. Only the big crimes get reported. Keep the violence down and be grateful, but believe me it is not as bad as it could get,
Steve Dodd, UK/South Africa

I have seen friends move into the estate only to move out weeks later

Karina, UK
I am very familiar with the North Peckham Estate and have been for the last 10 years. Within that time I have seen friends move into the estate only to move out weeks later because they have been robbed, threatened or burgled by youths. The regeneration of this area has been one of the best I have ever seen, so much money, thought and commitment has gone into it. This will all have been a waste of time unless you weed out the minority of scum that live there and make other people's lives hell. If the Government was not so afraid of being accused of being racist it would have brought back the stop and search policy as soon as crime figures rose.
Karina, UK

Without meaning to excuse the actions of the children involved and the many other similarly violent individuals, a large problem is abuse either by parents or in care. Children think violence is a normal part of life because they experienced it first hand themselves. Yet parents who are violent towards their children are rarely punished (and even then there is a widespread belief that "disciplining" children allows unlimited physical force), social workers who try to intervene are publicly labelled as "interfering", and new parents are given no help at all in raising their children in an appropriate manner. Until we treat parenthood as a skill needing to be learnt and every bit as important as the three R's, nothing will change.
Julian Hayward, UK

The levels of violence there are so shocking that they make even Cleveland and Miami in the States seem tame

Pierre Boyde, UK
Having lived for 18 months in Guatemala, Central America I returned with a much changed attitude towards law and order. The levels of violence there are so shocking that they make even Cleveland and Miami in the States seem tame. Grenades thrown at children's' birthday parties, heads lying on the motorway, decapitated corpses on city streets; robbery at gunpoint so common it is treated as a minor incident scarcely worth investigating by the police. The social causes behind violent countries and cities may be complex, but Britain took the right step with one aspect - banning handguns.
Pierre Boyde, UK

I am a transplanted Scot and have learned to adjust my body language when I return home to the big cities. I have encountered more violence and verbal abuse in the UK than in my 20 years here in the States. I have family members back home who continue to suffer vandalism and threats of physical violence. When they contacted the police with the identity of the ringleader of the gang of thugs, they were told nothing could be done. It's all very well for cabinet members to put their sad faces on and express outrage. They did the same thing when that poor boy Jamie Bulger was brutalised and what was accomplished?
Di Stewart, USA

Having lived for a time in both Australia, Hong Kong and Japan, I have no doubt that the UK is a more violent place to live. Whilst violence exists everywhere, in the UK there is an unacceptable atmosphere of threatened violence. Bullying is endemic in our schools and society and will, I have no doubt, be at the core of this killing. The Government have done nothing significant to deal with bullying in our schools and from my own experience I know they are absolutely not interested in doing anything at all. Perhaps this will be the trigger to force politicians to look properly at the problem instead of wringing their hands and indulging in empty rhetoric.
Steve Male, UK

I don't believe in the idea, of us comparing the UK's crime level against the USA's, mainly because, America is America and Britain is Britain. What I think we should do, is tackle the issues of crimes, bullying etc. as a problem in the UK without comparing it to other countries. What we must understand is that, like it or not Britain is becoming more and more violent every day.

Both Tony Blair and Jack Straw mentioned how shocked they are about the news and ask witnesses to come forward, but this sound exactly like the two cases which shocked the nation some years back; the case of James Bulger and Steven Lawrence. Tell me, eventually, what did the Government do to the punish the offenders, absolutely nothing. My sincere sympathy goes to the parents and family of Damilola.
Funmi Adenuga, Hackney, London, UK

A suggestion like that shows the real legacy of Thatcher - curing the symptoms and not the problem

A Smith, UK
What is Mike Holmes on? The right to carry guns! Pure insanity, mainland Europe has lower crime and people don't carry guns. A suggestion like that shows the real legacy of Thatcher - curing the symptoms and not the problem. If the previous government had dealt with social inequality PROPERLY then this attack may never of happened.
A Smith, UK

To the US contributors who think the UK is the more dangerous country. What was the name of that high school in the mid-West where the two boys went on a lethal shooting spree? And what exactly was the body count? You have very short memories it seems.
Louis Berk, UK

I wept when I heard the story of this little boy's senseless murder. However, some of those tears were for the horror of hearing that the murderers were probably youngsters themselves. Tragically, I feel that the US has some responsibility in the social climate created now in the UK. The main exports from the US are the depictions of extreme violence and lawlessness replete in TV shows, movies and video games. There is a fascination, particularly among the young, to emulate what they see in the media as it is being glorified in the name of the almighty dollar. The Bulger case is another example of society gone amok, with kids being killers.

This is nothing to do with taxation or public services. What this has to do with is empowering the police to get on with the job of preventing crime, rather than filling in forms. It also needs the courts to hand down a real punishment, rather than the current situation where an officer arrests a yob, fills in the 50 or so forms, hauls said yob before the courts only to watch him/her slapped on the wrist and let go with the eighteenth warning.
Billy G,UK

The law calls it bullying, and say it is the school's problem

Stephen, UK
I was mugged at knifepoint by other children when I was the same age as Damilola. The police did nothing and the school denied responsibility. All I got for my efforts was a flogging by the same children for 'snitching'. After that I shut up and put up with daily bullying. Crimes against children by other children are no less serious than those committed by adults, but the law sees it totally differently. The law calls it bullying, and says it is the school's problem. As long as our children continue to receive no protection under the law from violent acts by their peers, we will continue to breed thugs who grow up thinking such things can be perpetrated without consequence.
Stephen, UK

England is definitely becoming more violent. Compared to Peckham I live in a 'good' area but youth crime has become a big problem even there the over the last 2 years. We need more police, harsh and consistent penalties for crime and most importantly we need to urgently implement a campaign throughout the education system along side posters and advertising to impart to young people a better mind set; similar to the hard hitting 'drink drive' campaign, but with videos, films, interviews with victims, praise for decent behaviour etc. We need to make young people feel proud and improved to the previous generation and encourage a sense of the whole of society working together to make life more peaceful not just for their immediate neighbourhood.
Chris Kadis, England

Deprived communities in Britain no longer have any identity

Richard, UK
I think Britain is on the knife-edge of a severe attitude problem, the consequences of which will be felt for many future generations. Many Britons have become extremely insular and selfish, always going on about their own individualism, yet ignoring their collective responsibilities. Deprived communities in Britain no longer have any identity, and inevitably seek it from gun-culture gangland USA. I feel the seeds of this problem have been sown by successive uncaring governments, which have translated to the parents and now to the kids. A responsible government should take concrete steps to restore the crumbling police services and teaching professions, to re-install decency among the population.
Richard, UK

The calls to become more responsible and to act to prevent crime is all very well - lot's of people agree with this. Those same people are disillusioned with the justice system which does not bring justice to victims. See the example at the higher levels, let justice and the law support the community.
Sue, UK

Much of the current problems are the result of the politically correct minority who seek to make everything perfect according to their way of thinking. Yes, big mistakes were made in the past in regard to buildings and design etc., but if the people were law abiding the areas would still be OK. We have to stop worrying about the rights of the criminal and start considering the victim.

Those decent people in society must now make a stand and ensure the police get the help and co-operation they need. At the same time, the police must be freed from the politically correct shackles they are currently limited by and criminals should be given very few rights.
Mike, England

The problem is that nobody's got time for kids anymore. Children spend most of their days parked in front of the TV watching cartoons, one more violent than the other, playing beat-em-up games and listening to music that promotes violence and places no value on human life. When they do get to interact with their parents, it's only to be told off and yelled at. It's not just a problem in the UK, it's a problem all over Europe and America. Parents expect to have everything.

Somehow parents today seem to think that kids should bring themselves up and leave their parents to 'have their lives'. Wake up and smell the violence! The minute your child is born you give up your right to 'a life' until that child is working and supporting him/herself. If you're not prepared to give that commitment you should not have the child in the first place.
Christine, UK

To the people who claimed that Damilola was ignored by passers-by and left to bleed to death: that isn't true. Local people did what they could to help him and paramedics were on the scene quickly to try and save him. While this is obviously a very sad case and absolutely tragic for this little boy's family, I'm not sure that we should be drawing general conclusions about the safety or otherwise of Britain from it.
Simon, Belgium

This is indicative of a country that is more obsessed with the protection of property than people.
Barry Wall, UK

I am only 13 years old, and I'm still at school. I see so much bullying, but this is horrible. It is a disgrace to think to that the world is actually like this. It is to dangerous to go out now, because being a young girl of my age, I will admit that a lot of men do come up to me and my friends when we're out, we just think that it too dangerous.
Claire Russell, England

Bring back capital punishment (including death penalty) for certain violent crimes.
Philip B, UK

In my home town of Shrewsbury recently I was confronted by a group of kids who were probably about 12 years old. They tried to antagonise me but I refused to take the bait and instead looked them in the eye as if to say don't try anything. This worked only because they were well bred and so were fairly cautious. I would never have tried the same tactic in some of the East London estates where I used to live near. What is needed for these children is something similar to national service. A genuine team building and community service practice before the streets and subsumed by violence.
Andrew Latto, England

First my heart goes out to the Taylor family. I was brought up in the UK in the 50s -60s, and I'm not sure where some of you folk are coming from because these toe rags have always been around, the only difference is the fact that they have crawled out of their holes because its now "safe " for them to operate. On the positive side for the UK is the fact that local and nation crimes still get reported in the newspapers and folk are still outrage and prepared to look at the problems . But at the moment it appears that right of the individual is greater than that of the countries needs. Reverse that trend just a little and the streets will be safer.
Don Cherrett, New Zealand

The sense of social outrage that such acts still generate in the UK is extremely healthy

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
One only has to turn on the local TV news in New York, Washington DC or any other large city over here to note how casually shootings and murders are reported. They don't even command top billing in the headlines any more unless they've got video tape! The sense of social outrage that such acts still generate in the UK is extremely healthy!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

In recent years, something has seriously gone wrong with the upbringing of British youth. The promotion of 'Lager Lout' culture certainly has a large amount to do with it. In the crowds that gather to celebrate New Year's Eve here in Sydney, for instance, it's not hard to be aware that the rowdiest, most drunken and unruly members are inevitably British backpackers. Indeed, a friend owns a backpacking hostel here told me that, if he could, he wouldn't take British youths at all because of their behaviour.
Peter C, Sydney, Australia

As a 15 year old student, I know what goes through the minds of young children. I find it difficult to believe that some people are able to do such evil things as murder a 10 year old. I would never be able to do this, and certainly not at the age of 13. I believe that this latest murder is on a par with the murder of the Liverpool toddle Bulger because it's so violent and done by young children.
Oliver Keenan, England

I feel considerably safer walking around any urban area here than I would in the UK

Richard Homer, Wales / Malaysia
I think that if one reads BBC online news every day for a month, one will find the answer quickly. It is very. Malaysia has areas of social deprivation, there is unemployment. There is crime of course, but I suggest on a scale nowhere near that of Britain. I feel considerably safer walking around any urban area here than I would in the UK.
Richard Homer, Wales / Malaysia

I've spent a fair amount of time in the UK and find Brits to be extremely law abiding. I grew up in Detroit, and lived in NYC for 10 years. I have personally seen three killings, and lost more than a dozen friends to 'street' violence. These are murders only, assault is hardly worth mentioning because it's so commonplace. If one compares the number of people murdered in Northern Ireland over the last 30 years (the 'troubles') it matches or is lower than most US cities with a comparable population over the same period.
Alexander Crawford, USA

Having spent most of our lives in England, my wife and I moved to Canada. What a pleasant experience. The level of racism, hatred and prejudice in UK was obvious once we had experienced living in a civilised nation! We are so glad to have left that polluted, classist and racist country. After 5 years here we will never take ourselves or our children to live in England.
Takhar Ranj, Canada

I just read Damilola's story and I am deeply saddened by this. My heart goes to his family. Britain is becoming too violent. It is unfortunate that an innocent 10 year old boy had to be murdered. It is even sadder to read that so many people ignored him and just walked past him. How could they have walked past a 10 year old bleeding? What is the society turning into? Much of the blame should go to the school and the society as a whole. If a 10 year old boy from Nigeria complains of schoolmates bullying him - I know what that is! It should have been taken care of in a better way.
Tola, Nigerian in the USA

I feel a lot safer here than in the UK

Susan P, USA
I have lived in the US for 12 years and I can tell you that although the country gets a bad rap for violence and crime, I feel a lot safer here than in the UK. Where we live, outside Boston, people leave cars and their houses unlocked and the only crime is petty. You can safely walk the streets at night. Boston is like any other city in the world, it has good and bad areas, but from what I hear there aren't many places in the UK where one can feel safe anymore and I think that is sad.
Susan P, USA

It's very easy to blame the police, Government or the media when such atrocious crimes as this are committed. But these institutions merely reflect out society. If this country really wants to tackle its various problems (crime, racism and poverty) then we ALL have to stop looking for someone to blame and start looking at what we, as individuals, can do for our communities. We live in them, so we must help build them, as no-one else will. I think we should also ask ourselves who is worse, the attacker or the passer-by who ignores a 10 year old bleeding to death. I know what I think!
Peter Hutson, UK

The deterioration in society coincides with the misguided council house building programme of the late 1950's and the 1960's. Councils replaced mediocre private rented accommodation with badly designed municipal estates and at the same time broke up self-regulating communities. Low police numbers, racial sensitivity and touchy-feely social attitudes have exacerbated the problem to produce class and racial ghettos. In financial terms, pulling down the mistakes and rebuilding is going to be horrendously expensive. The cost in human misery is incalculable but will be paid by several generations.
Brian, UK

Society in this country is becoming increasingly lawless

Anon, England
It just goes to show what a selfish and uncaring nation we've become. If we didn't all demand tax cuts there might be more money available for public spending and therefore more police on the streets - hence, less crime. Society in this country is becoming increasingly lawless. We see it all the time, e.g. little things like breaking red lights, parking illegally and then complaining about how unfair it is when caught. To the mother and family of Damilola Taylor, I'm sorry.
Anon, England

You can not underestimate the corrupting influence of US gang culture in the British ghettos. The language and posturing of gangsta rappers are played out for real, life imitating 'art'. The ridiculous ideals of these role models are money, jewelry, cars and women (not that they are referred to as women however). For every one of these exploitative rap artistes living in the hills of LA there are a million disenfranchised kids listening to their cynical and hate filled world view.

Being from the UK originally I think the worst thing was doing away with the birch. Children today have no role models, parents do not bring up children right, nor do they take responsibility for their actions. We all have choices and that means making the right ones. I grew up poor but respected my parents and the law which does not seem to be the norm these days. To be able to get Britain great again, we all need to do our part and take responsibility for our actions and not blame others. Then and only then will things start to improve.
Sheila P, USA,

Jack Straw wants to try spending 6 months living on an estate like Damilola's and see for himself, just how frightening it can be

Angela, England
You don't know how bad it really is until you have been burgled 13 times in 13 years, when you arrive home from a holiday for your neighbours to tell you that somebody has broken into your home, they didn't bother to tell the police, after all it's none of their business.

Last time we were burgled our dog was at home and our "nice" neighbours looking after him and the house, the burglars broke in through a back door beat the dog and stole my son's birthday presents. They knew it was his birthday, so they must have known him. We have learnt not to antagonise these families and have not been burgled for about 3 years now. But if we were to stand against them we know that our house would be burgled or even worse, we have been threatened with our house being burnt down. It is just something you have to live with when you are stuck on a nightmare estate like ours. Jack Straw wants to try spending 6 months living on an estate like Damilola's and see for himself, just how frightening it can be.
Angela, England

A very large proportion of children no longer have respect for society, adults or the law. A significant number of those are not introduced into the concept of what is right and what is wrong. They lack social skills and social responsibility (as do many adults). The combination of these factors results in dangerous people (adult or child alike). Perhaps it is time to stop ramming the concept of rights down the throats of these people before we instil strong social responsibilities. With responsibility come rights, not the other way around.
Dave, UK

I think Michael from the US makes a good point that the murder of a child in the UK can still horrify the whole nation, whereas it wouldn't make a dent on the US national psyche (whose population, given the high level of crime, is only five times ours). So long as we can hold on to a sense of outrage rather than cynical resignation over such a disgusting act then we're far from beaten.
The system is failing miserably in it's attempts to satisfy the demands of the overwhelming majority while attempting to please the do-gooders who will be more concerned about the murderers rather than their victim.
Neil Halliday, United Kingdom

If the parents do not display discipline, then how can we be surprised when the kids don't act any different?

Dean, UK
It's all too easy to blame the government and 'society' for the rising number of 'lawless' teenagers and kids. However, it isn't the government's job to look after children. The shoulder of blame lies firmly on the parents of these kids. Without a firm hand at home from a young age, respect for other people and their property is never learnt. If the parents do not display discipline, then how can we be surprised when the kids don't act any different?
There must be parental responsibility in order to reign in the problem - and if nothing is done about this, then when the current generation of 'out-of-control' children start having their own kids, the problem is only going to snowball.
Dean, UK

Although British, I have been living in Washington DC for two months. I have also lived in New York, and London, and of the three cities I find London the most violent in terms of anecdotal evidence and the experiences of friends, particularly sex attacks. I also think that part of the problem with our evaluation of crime is our media network. I think perhaps the security that some US cities feel, is purely due to a news system which does not inform them of the reality.
Claire, USA

Perhaps we wouldn't be facing this awful decay if we valued the teachers and the police a bit more. Both professions are haemorrhaging staff, which are vital in the development of young children, or in dealing with matters when they go astray. Nothing will improve until pay and conditions are dramatically improved and good people appreciated. Incidentally, I've never been, nor would want to be, a teacher or a policeman.
Steve Beeston, UK

You might expect Cambridge to be an idyllic quiet town. Forget it: in four weeks living in the town centre I've not seen one policeman on the beat. Drunkenness everywhere, street drinking all weekend and every night go unstopped, over-crowded roads drive cyclists onto the pavements; life is terrifying after dark for anyone over the age of fifty.
Bob, UK

Eventually no one, anywhere will be able to walk the streets because of the disillusion of our youth

Clarke L. Jones, Bermuda
It would seem that no matter where you live in the world today children are committing violent acts against each other. Britain is not immune from this as is not Japan one of the least violent countries in the world. In our small community we are plagued with teen violence as well. What is the cause of this? Well just look at what we are offering our youth today.
In everything they see on the tele or in the movies there is violence and the constant badgering of this type of entertainment is finally showing it's rewards. Eventually no one, anywhere will be able to walk the streets because of the disillusion of our youth.
Clarke L. Jones, Bermuda

I have been living in Mexico City for the last 2 years. I am a teacher and used to have nightmares about my last school and the behaviour of some of the pupils. All the time that I have lived here I have never seen a parent shouting or hitting their child like is common practice in the UK. I think that if children are bought up with love and affection and with boundaries they will have more respect for others.
Libby , Mexiico

The Home Secretary wants us all to oppose crime. Yet this is the same Home Secretary who removed from us one simple means of dissuading criminals from committing crimes and for stopping those who do: the right to won and carry handguns. In those areas of the US where carry of handguns is legal, the violent crime rate is lower than that of the UK. Let's abandon political correctness in favour of doing the right thing: legalise handguns and let the citizens stop crime.
Mike Holmes, Scotland

The disrespect for society and the law in Britain seems to bring out the worst in the young peoplee

Charles Porter, USA
The US is often in the news because of the crimes committed using firearms. However, the average person in the street has a very remote chance of being involved in violent crime. The disrespect for society and the law in Britain seems to bring out the worst in the young people and frequently I hear from relatives there about muggings, vandalism etc. Of course the US is no where near perfect, what country is? It is interesting to note however, that Mayor Juiliana's policy of "no-tolerance" for even the most minor of crimes has deterred crime in New York to the point where crime rates have dropped by 30% in three years. Perhaps the UK politicians, courts and police could learn something from this.
Charles Porter, USA

I don't think Britain is a violent society. This case is certainly shocking, but all the more so because it's a rarity. A search on CNN brings up a number of similar cases in America, which weren't publicised nearly as much. Maybe it's a good thing therefore that we see such reporting here - it indicates not only that violence is lower, but that we're less prepared to put up with it.
Tim Miller, England

Having recently moved to North Carolina from Norwich, UK I can appreciate how much less hostile life is back in Britain. I live in a city of c 350,000 people and there have been over twenty murders since I got here in April. These are focused in the poorer area of the city and are predominantly 'drug related'. The killings frequently include teens. It doesn't even make the headlines anymore.
Graham Redman, USA

As a Canadian who lived in England for 3 years, I found myself shocked and intimidated everyday by the violence and cruelty I saw around me. I felt surrounded by parents screaming or beating their children, children picking on other children, men beating each other up outside of pubs or couples screaming and tormenting each other. When I returned to Montreal I was relieved to be surrounded by people who respected each other and treated each other with patience and tolerance.
Lisa Howard, Canada

I grew up in England (Essex) but left for Canada in 1988. I can't speak for Britain's current level of violence, but my strong impression after arriving in Toronto was that Canada is a much less violent place to live. I believe that Britain's tolerance of public drunken behaviour is a factor. Lager Louts are not welcome on the streets of Canada's cities.
Keith Moore, Canada

It simply isn't good enough for Mr. Blair and Mr. Straw to express shock and horror

Nanette Bray, UK
So the murder of young Damilola has yet again "shocked Britain" - presumably in the same way the murder of young Jamie Bulger shocked the nation. What became of his killers? Soon they will be free and once again the do-gooders in our society will have set about showing more consideration to the perpetrators than to the victim. It's high time politicians came down from their ivory towers and addressed this problem at grass roots.
It simply isn't good enough for Mr. Blair and Mr. Straw to express shock and horror. They state that people should come forward to act responsibility for their actions but in order to this to happen, the men at the top should give the lead.
Nanette Bray, UK

This is an appalling crime, but hardly new, even in the UK. It's clear that most crime is committed by children and often on children. This implies that some children have little respect for others and have not learnt how to give respect. Parents cannot be forced to teach children, teachers are already overworked, but sports and social societies can teach teamwork and co-operation. The government say that are tackling this, but then again, they say a lot of things.
Colin, Netherlands

As awful as this murder is. I am more surprised at how surprised people seem to be that this has happened. No one who has lived in a city in the UK can be surprised when terrible things like this happen. Welcome to London in the year 2000.

Try outrunning a bullet in New York City!

Terry, USA
Violence in Britain? Compared to other countries, Britain's violent crime is almost negligible. While I'm sorry for the boy who was killed, it's all relative. There aren't many guns in Britain, so at least you might be able to outrun a knife or someone's fists. Try outrunning a bullet in New York City!
Terry, USA

There are people everywhere who have been brought up without any regard or respect for other people or for human life. I have been a father now for 6 years and would like to think that I have taught my children some fundamental ideas about right and wrong. The problem is that there are so many parents who refuse to take responsibility for the behaviour of their children. The children then grow up to be scum like their parents and the cycle continues.
Bruce Walton, England

I'm from Minnesota, but I've always admired Great Britain. In the past decade, however, it seems that there is a growing tide of rowdiness and hooliganism. Coupled with frequent news of rampant drug problems, unemployment and low literacy rates, it seems it would be dangerous to travel to Great Britain, even though I've long wanted to tour your renown gardens.
Shar, USA

Problems like those in Peckham obviously take a long time to build up

Steve, UK
I rarely buy a newspaper during the week, but I did so yesterday because the front page caught my eye and on reading the report it upset me in a way that I find difficult to describe. Problems like those in Peckham obviously take a long time to build up, and equally obviously will take a long time (and money) to resolve, but I am beginning to think that there is something so fundamentally wrong with a sizeable section of a whole generation of young people that some things will never be resolved. And why? Here's a suggestion. Thousands of unskilled workers were thrown out of work by the policies of the last Government. There was never any prospect of many of them working again and they were therefore effectively "written off" as a group who would disappear in time. But they had children didn't they, and how on earth is someone who has been "written off" supposed to instil any sense of hope those children? We cannot write any more people off. You reap what you sow.
Steve, UK

I lived in Washington D.C. for 10 years before relocating to London 4 years ago. I may have worried more about guns in D.C. (although they were not a particular concern for those not involved in the drug trade) but as to concerns about random, mindless violence, London is far scarier. Lack of strong adult supervision and role models and a seemingly endless flow of alcohol are to blame.
Nick M, UK

The real tragedy here is the people of the United Kingdom

Ash Mishra, Canada
The real tragedy here is the people of the United Kingdom. A young boy, helpless and bleeding to death, is just ignored by passers-by? Is this what being British is about?
Ash Mishra, Canada

Today 12 children in the United States will die from gunshot wounds. Not one will reach national headlines. I think it's great that a whole country is feeling outrage, horror and disbelief over this terrible and senseless murder.
Michael, USA

Britain is one of the most violent countries in Europe. I went to the UK a few months ago and within 24 hours of getting off the plane I got beaten up by a bunch of drunken yobbos and ended up in hospital with a suspected fractured skull. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Earlier that same day I saw a woman sprawled on the sidewalk who had just been mugged. Like it or not, Britain has a serious law and order problem and you are not safe on the streets there.
Anon, UK, overseas

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29 Nov 00 | UK
Peckham: Renewal and revolt
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