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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2006, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Damilola's Peckham legacy
By Tom Edwards
BBC News, London

Sports Centre in the North Peckham Estate
The sports centre was refurbished after Damilola's death
Two brothers have been convicted of killing 10-year-old Damilola Taylor, at the end of a third trial following his death in 2000. BBC News assesses the impact his death had on Peckham where he lived.

It is hot and noisy at the Damilola Taylor Centre, where children the same age as Damilola when he died are clashing in a game of five-a-side football.

Part of the 10-year-old's legacy is this refurbished sports centre on the North Peckham Estate, one of many things to change since he died.

The estate is unrecognisable from two years ago, let alone since 2000 when Damilola died. Then it was huge and largely derelict with concrete stairways and walkways.

Very few people lived there. It had been designed as a haven for people, but instead had turned into a ghetto and was finally knocked down in 2004.

The demolition was planned even before Damilola's death, but after he died it was put high on the nation's agenda and there was no shortage of political will to make it happen.

Now there are modern flats, family homes and wide streets. There are show homes and marketing suites.

It's sad that it took a really sad incident for the government and the council to take action and to make changes here that were needed
Rodney Bruce
Some 300m has been spent on the rebuilding of the area, which is continuing.

Russell Profitt, of Peckham Partners which is trying to play a central role in creating a new Peckham, said: "Apart from creating new housing we've introduced a diversity of tenure - ie a more mixed community and that's a bought a new dynamism to Peckham.

"We've seen a gradual reduction in unemployment locally and there's been some investment in training and helping people...get back into work."

One of those to benefit is Rodney Bruce, who has been optimistic about Peckham since 2004 and is now about to go to university.

He still thinks the area is improving but believes more needs to be done to help young people.

Rodney Bruce
Rodney Bruce wants to see more opportunities for youngsters
"We need more opportunities really," he says.

"Because if I can do it then there's no reason why anyone else can't do it."

Damilola's death led to Southwark Council introducing one of the UK's first early intervention teams in the Youth Offending Services in 2001.

Instead of courts alerting the authorities so they can get involved with a young person, support is brought in beforehand.

Chris Domeney, head of the Peckham's Youth Offending Service, said: "It has led to a radical change.

"We looked at the case studies of all the suspects and we found that almost all of them were well-known to a number of agencies and had been from quite a young age.

"We are now focused on intervening much earlier when we see risk factors such as not going to school or difficult behaviour."

In 2004 there was a 16% drop in youth crime in the borough and the project is highly regarded by the government.

Ghetto tag

But Peter Jamieson, youth offending team officer, said work still needs to be done.

"They have got no where to go and we need to invest in young people," he said. "If we do that we'll be able to raise their self esteem and their aims.

"My concern is if the area is looked down on.

"If it's described as a slum or a ghetto, if people say it's full of anti-social behaviour, then at some stage young people will take that on board."

The Boyhood to Manhood Foundation is one of those agencies investing in the future.

One of those on the scheme is 15-year-old Nathan who has been in trouble but is sorting himself out.

The regenerated North Peckham Estate
The old estate was torn down and replaced with modern homes
"If there wasn't a place like this I'd probably be on the streets selling drugs or just getting myself into more trouble. I'd probably be in prison," he said.

But one of the mentors at the foundation, Edmund Poru, said there are still those who go down the crime route.

"[In terms of] the problems the kids go through and their mentality, not a lot has changed," he said.

"More people are drifting into the way of crime and not a lot of the youth centres that have been opened can really combat this".

But despite local people are clearly optimistic about the future - and the tragedy of Damilola's death has been some kind of catalyst for that.

As Rodney said: "It's sad that it took a really sad incident for the government and the council to take action and to make changes here that were needed."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See how Damilola's death transformed Peckham



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