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Dami: six years of bungling

Exclusive by Shirin Aguiar-Holloway
5/4/2006

COURTENAY GRIFFITHS, a barrister at the heart of the first Damilola Taylor murder trial, today attacked bungling officials for destroying hopes for justice.

Damilola Taylor
Damilola Taylor: may have been murdered.

He criticised the Metropolitan Police and the forensic science experts following a second trial which has failed to convict anyone of the ten-year-old's murder.

Two brothers, aged 17 and 18, and Hassan Jihad, 20, were cleared of murdering Damilola, who bled to death from a leg wound in Peckham, south London, in 2000.

Mr Griffiths QC slammed the Met's £20m investigation for missing vital clues, including a bloodspot on a suspects shoe, and overlooking flaws in their investigation.

One of Britain's most high profile barristers, who represented one of the boys acquitted in 2002 of killing Damilola Taylor, Mr Griffiths was instrumental in discrediting witness 'Bromley', a disturbed 14-year-old girl whose lies blew a hole in the prosecution's case.

hampered

Mr Griffiths said: 'This trial further demonstrates that police completely messed up this investigation. Some £20m has now been spent on two investigations and what's quite clear is that the second investigation was hampered by the mistakes made first time round.

Courtenay Griffiths
Courtenay Griffiths QC: critical of prosecution failures.

'Had they followed up the scientific leads, they wouldn't have been deflected by Witness Bromley.'

Police were accused of offering gifts to Bromley in return for her eye-witness testimony.

So far seven youths have been cleared of murder charges. Four from the first trial, and three other from the case that ended this week.

If the criminal justice system had operated properly 'four young boys wouldn't have run the risk of being convicted of murder when innocent, and spent 12 months in custody on charges which shouldn't have been brought in the first place', he said.

evidence

'Had forensic evidence come out, the first four would not have been put on trial. The second three were initial suspects until Witness Bromley put police off.

dami cap
The most recognised image of Damilola, 10.

'Had police followed the DNA evidence then, they might have found the scientific evidence.  But having begun the second investigation so long after the first all the eye witness leads would have been cold.

'They were too quick to seize on Witness Bromley as a sure-fire solution to their problem. As a result they were quite willing to overlook the flaws in their evidence.'

Peter Herbert, a part-time judge and chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, said the failure of the forensic science services was 'inexcusable' and added that 'police could not be let off the hook.'

unreliable

He said:  'The Forensic Science Services bungled by missing vital evidence four years ago. Everybody knows that murder inquiries are best dealt with at the time.  A lot of evidence is likely to go missing and be unreliable.'

Peter Herbert
Peter Herbert: forensic failures were inexcusable.

Mr Herbert called the trial end 'very disappointing,' adding:  'It's also right that you don't just convict the wrong people or people who may not be fully guilty.

'The police were jumping up and down to try to get somebody.  It's always a factor. The police were under enormous pressure to get the right person or to get anybody.'

Police were due to meet the Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald QC today to decide on a retrial on the manslaughter charges for the brothers, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

It is the second trial that Damilola's parents, Gloria and Richard, have had to endure. Mr Taylor told Blink today: 'It's been so devastating for me.' He added that the family wanted an answer to issues.

The outcome means that yet another Black family has been denied justice. Black-led human ual rights organisation The 1990 Trust has called for an official inquiry into the litany of mistakes.

Tanuka Loha, director, said 'The confidence of Black communities in the criminal justice system has taken another blow. The mistakes that have caused this must be solved for the sake of justice.

‘Richard and Gloria Taylor have been let down. We have all been let down. This is yet another high profile murder of a Black youth which has failed to result in a conviction.’

'There are many unanswered questions. We need a full investigation into the Damilola case, including the role of Forensic Science Services.'

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