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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Q&A: Damilola Taylor trial

The acquittal of all four suspects in the Damilola Taylor murder trial has provoked fierce criticism about the way the case was handled.

BBC News Online asks criminal lawyer Robert Roscoe what it means for the youths and the legal system as a whole.


Are there grounds for the youths to sue police and would they succeed?

I would have thought it's unlikely. They would have to show that the police had not only been mistaken, but had brought the proceedings in bad faith.

They are unlikely to get legal aid unless there is a good case.

I don't think there's any risk of anybody being prosecuted for this. I think it's all bluster.

Is it right to offer cash rewards to witnesses?

I think the difficulty is obvious. Once juries know that somebody's evidence is affected by an outside influence - whether it's cash rewards, whether it's threats, or other interests - it must always call into question the reliability of that evidence.

Juries always have to weigh up not just what the witness says, but where they are coming from.

The general view, and I share it, is that rewards adversely affect the criminal justice system.

If you know you're going to get a pay-out you're always going to try that much harder.

Can you ever be certain about the evidence of 'difficult' witnesses and young offenders?

You can never be certain and that's why defence lawyers have a duty to test the evidence. You must test for inconsistencies and point them out to the jury.

The police have said witness Bromley was 'savaged' by the defence - it's totally inappropriate language.

Unfortunately the police see it as good versus evil.

What responsibility does the CPS bear?

What the CPS says is that there was evidence which was sufficient to justify the trial taking place.

The fact that when that evidence was tested it was found to be inadmissible does not affect the CPS.

They have a duty to bring a case when there appears to be a prima facie case.

There's always something to learn, but they did not interview witness Bromley, they did not interview the boys.

How was the investigation affected by the Stephen Lawrence case?

The Stephen Lawrence inquiry very much affected the approach taken by the police here.

I think the remarks made by the prime minister will have added fuel to the fire.

The complaint that the police had not investigated sufficiently in the Stephen Lawrence case could not be made here.

After Stephen Lawrence are police still failing to win the support of black communities?

I can't see any attraction for any of the kids (on the North Peckham estate) in having a chat with the police.

What's in it for them? These kids will be getting stopped every second minute.

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