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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 16:23 GMT
Damilola case 'exposed legal flaws'
Damilola Taylor
No-one has been convicted of Damilola's murder
The Damilola Taylor murder trial highlighted weaknesses in the criminal justice system and failings in the police investigation of the case, two reports have found.

A review of the role of police exposed 23 areas for improvement - but it also stressed the strengths of the investigation at a time when the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was short staffed.

The report, by the Bishop of Birmingham, John Sentamu, was particularly critical of the handling of 14-year-old 'Witness Bromley', whose crucial evidence was thrown out of court because she lied.


What we have to do is deal with the resources we have at the time

Sir John Stevens
Directly addressing Damilola's parents, Richard and Gloria Taylor, at the report's launch, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens said: "We will learn lessons... as a result of your son's tragic death."

A second investigation looking at the role of the Crown Prosecution Service said the decision to prosecute four teenagers for the murder of Damilola was "the right thing to do".

All were cleared of stabbing Damilola to death, in a stairwell in Peckham, south London, in November 2000.

Bishop Sentamu's report accepted that the Met' had made many improvements since the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence inquiry in 1993.

Bishop Sentamu
Bishop Sentamu led a six-month inquiry
In particular it praised the police's response in the initial stages of the investigation.

But it said that Witness Bromley should have been interviewed in better ways.

Bishop Sentamu's team said: "The absence of any process to test the veracity of Bromley's testimony before trial left the prosecution of the case vulnerable to problems."

The way in which evidence against the four teenage defendants was gathered while they were held on remand in young offenders' institutes was also criticised.

It said the decision to collect incriminating remarks made by the teenagers was "innovative but poorly resourced".

The inadequate investigation of a crucial defence alibi - that a defendant used his mobile phone almost two miles from where Damilola was killed just seven minutes later - was highlighted.

Police failed to spot that the suspect could have covered the distance by taking a short cut across playing fields.

'Greater trust'

Damilola's father was highly critical of the way the police handled his son's case.

Mr Taylor said: "We have not seen justice and we are still hoping that justice will be done."

There were also recommendations for improving the criminal justice system.

Bishop Sentamu said some evidence had been excluded because it was feared the jury could be misled.

"Looking carefully at the case and its passage through the courts, it's clear how some of the current rules of evidence and procedure - which were intended to prevent miscarriages of justice - can unfortunately have a damaging effect on the criminal justice process."

Sir John Stevens said the murder investigation remained open and drew attention to the finding that the Met' had coped with too few detectives.

"I can't just create them overnight, what we have to do is deal with the resources we have at the time," he said.

'Strong criticism

The review of the role of the CPS, overseen by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir David Calvert-Smith, said it had been right to carry on with the trial - even as new information emerged.

Sir David said there would have been "grounds for strong criticism" of the prosecution if it had failed to put what evidence there was before a judge and jury.

In most cases, the report said, the trial would rely on the credibility of a single witness, but the prosecutor would normally only have a written statement of the victim, a record of the interview with suspect or accused and the opinions of police officers to make a judgment.

Sir David said that to allow direct access to witnesses, as is allowed in some countries, would require a change to codes of conduct.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The report concludes it was the courts that ultimately let the 10-year-old and his parents down"
Damilola's father Richard Taylor
"We are still hoping that justice will be done"
Sir John Stevens, Metropolitan Police
"We need far more officers to do these inquiries"

Click here to go to BBC London Online
Find out more about the Damilola Taylor murder trial

Not guilty verdict

The fallout

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