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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Ignore family grief, Damilola jury told
Damilola Taylor
Damilola's parents lost a "much-loved" son
The jury in the trial of two teenagers charged with murdering Peckham schoolboy Damilola Taylor have been told to ignore any sympathy they have for the boy's grieving family.

Mr Justice Hooper told the four women and seven men at the Old Bailey that "sympathy cannot help you".


What you (the jury) must not do is speculate

Mr Justice Hooper

He urged them instead to ignore the great deal of public interest surrounding the case and try it "only on the evidence before you".

And he warned jurors that though they might find the behaviour of the defendants "deeply unattractive", their characters were not relevant to deciding their guilt.

Two 16-year-old brothers deny murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob Damilola on 27 November 2000.

The schoolboy bled to death on a stairwell on the North Peckham Estate, south London, from a thigh injury caused by a broken bottle.

The prosecution alleges he was stabbed, but the defence claims the boy injured himself accidentally.

Damilola's parents, Richard and Gloria Taylor, listened at the back of the court as the judge told jurors: "We all have huge sympathy for the Damilola Taylor family who have lost a much loved 10-year-old son."

Public interest

But he added: "Sympathy for the family and sympathy for all those caught up in this must be put aside when you consider your verdicts."

The jury must also ignore the possibility that its verdicts would attract a great deal of public interest and analysis, he said.

"You must try the case on the evidence before you. What you must not do is speculate," the judge added.

He said the brothers had consistently denied involvement in Damilola's death.

They had minor convictions for offences such as taking and driving away, but none for robbery, serious assault or having a weapon.

The alibis they provided involved one stealing and the other snatching a mobile phone.

'Loutish behaviour'

A youth had also told the court that the brothers had demanded money from him.

But the judge added: "You may think that the behaviour of these two defendants is deeply unattractive.

"The kind of behaviour which we associate with young louts, young yobs.

"I give you this strong clear and strong direction - their characters are not relevant at all.

"It does not help you decide these defendants' guilt.

"There are sadly too many youngsters who behave in a similar way to these two defendants."

He said jurors had to consider the guilt of each of the defendants separately.

The judge also urged them to "exercise special caution" when considering evidence from some of the witnesses from young offender institutes.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday.

Find out more about the Damilola Taylor murder trial

Not guilty verdict

The fallout

BACKGROUND

PANORAMA SPECIAL

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CBBC NEWS
See also:

15 Apr 02 | England
10 Apr 02 | England
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