Two brothers have been jailed for killing a woman who was shot dead as she held her baby niece at a christening party. Timy and Diamond Babamuboni were sentenced as juveniles despite widespread doubts about their true ages.
By Chris Summers
The Babamuboni brothers were part of a gang which set out to rob guests at a christening party in Peckham, south London, on 27 August 2005.
THE BABAMUBONI BROTHERS
Timy Babamuboni was supposedly born on either 23 March or 23 August 1991, in Nigeria
Diamond Babamuboni was supposedly born on 27 March 1989
Diamond, who claims to be 17, has fathered two children, the elder of them three years old
The brothers have Nigerian birth certificates which, the court heard, were "clearly forgeries".
Diamond has previous convictions for theft, burglary, attempted robbery and possessing a knife
Diamond will be deported to Nigeria after serving his sentence. Timy may join him but his position is less clear
During the robbery one of their accomplices, Roberto Malasi, shot dead Zainab Kalokoh as she held her baby niece Adama.
The brothers were convicted of manslaughter and on Wednesday were given indeterminate sentences at the Old Bailey. They will have to serve at least eight years.
Sentencing them, Mr Justice Gross said: "Whatever allowances were made for you, what you did that night was evil".
He also said they had "methodically scooped up victims' belongings in the pandemonium" after the shooting.
Timy and Diamond claim to be 15 and 17 respectively but Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, told the court police had suspicions they were older.
The police's investigation into the question had "drawn a blank", Mr Altman said.
He said their mother, Dorothy Johnson, had given conflicting accounts of their date of births and he said both youths had Nigerian birth certificates which were thought to be forgeries.
The certificates were written in the same handwriting and had consecutive numbers, despite the brothers having apparently been born two years apart.
Police had wanted to conduct dental tests which, although not 100% accurate, would have indicated their true ages, said Mr Altman.
Zainab Kalokoh was an innocent victim of the gang
But he said the brothers had "declined" to undergo the tests.
Age was crucial to the sentence the judge could pass and also to the question of deportation, as juveniles cannot be deported without their parents.
Mr Justice Gross said that if they had been proved to be adults they would have been looking at minimum terms of 16 years rather than eight years.
Each year the Immigration Service conducts scores of dental checks on young asylum seekers in order to clarify their true ages.
The dental tests are understood to be accurate to within six months.
It is thought the police may have thought that under the Human Rights Act they were not able to force the brothers to undergo the tests.
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has said several times that the Human Rights Act is frequently "misunderstood" by public services.
The gang caused mayhem when they targeted the party
A spokeswoman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs told BBC Radio Five Live: "Nothing in the Human Rights Act prevents carrying out a dental check on a person who is suspected of carrying out a crime.
"On the contrary, the Act explicitly allows public authorities to interfere with an individual's right to privacy in the interests of public safety or for the prevention or detection of crime."
In July last year the government made a commitment to issue "myth-busting advice" to the police and other public services and a telephone advice line will be in operation from April.
At the time of the murder the families of the Babamuboni brothers were seeking refugee status but the Home Office has since turned down their application.
The trial judge has recommended Diamond for deportation but cannot do the same in the case of his brother Timy as he has been granted to leave to remain in the country, apparently because of his age.
Mr Justice Gross told the Old Bailey: "This country has a long and proud record of offering refuge to those who need it. From time to time there are those likely to abuse that position."
He said he would be writing to the immigration authorities about Timy's case.