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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 17:20 GMT
Judge criticises Damilola police
Old Bailey
The Old Bailey judge said key witness was unreliable
The police's handling of their key witness in the Damilola Taylor murder trial has come under fire from the judge at the Old Bailey trial.

Mr Justice Hooper said there was a "very real danger" that the 14-year-old girl was persuaded to tell lies when the police offered her "inducements".

He told the jury that, therefore, nothing the girl had said about the defendants in the case could be relied upon.


The danger that she was persuaded to tell untruths is very real

Mr Justice Hooper

In clearing one of four defendants - a 17-year-old boy - the judge said the witness had admitted telling a series of "embellished lies" and her account of witnessing the killing had an "inherent unlikeliness".

The inducements from police had included that she could get one of the defendants, who was her friend, "off the hook" by saying she saw the killing, the judge said.

She was also told by police that the 50,000 reward money would be "more guaranteed" and that the "nightmare for everybody" would be ended if she had been there.

The judge told the court: "As two officers in part accepted, there can, in my judgment, be no doubt that the various inducements would have made any confession obtained from a suspect inadmissible as unreliable and I would have to so direct the jury.

'Untruths'

"Whilst accepting that she only once complained about what happened and that she maintains the truth of most of what she then said, nonetheless the danger that she was persuaded to tell untruths is very real.

"Thereafter, all the love, protection and support which has been shown to her would make it extremely difficult for her to change her mind again.

"A reasonable jury properly directed could not be sure that she was in Blakes Road and saw an incident which resulted in Damilola Taylor's death on 27 November, 2000.

"No part of her evidence which is adverse to any defendant can be relied upon."

The trial continues.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"There are questions now about the role of the police"
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti
"This girl has dominated the trial"
Find out more about the Damilola Taylor murder trial

Not guilty verdict

The fallout

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15 Feb 02 | England
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