Boy defendant makes history at Old Bailey

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The Independent Online
LIKE Dr Crippen and the Yorkshire Ripper before him, the prisoner at the bar peered over the side of the dock as the jury was sworn in. The eyes of the world's most famous court were upon him.

But not for long. Soon the defendant was out of view again as he ducked back down in the dock - all four and a half foot of him. Yesterday was a historic day in Number One court at the Old Bailey.

Aged 11, the youngest defendant known to have appeared there arrived dressed in his school uniform - grey-blue jersey and trousers - and with one shoelace artfully undone. He was charged with the manslaughter of a 93-year-old woman - a serious enough offence to merit the trial taking place in such surroundings.

One of the boy's hands was clasped by his mother as she led him into the dock from open court. Journalists strained for a glimpse as he rounded the corner of the dock and disappeared from view. That was all that was to be seen until the jury was sworn in and the boy was asked whether he was pleading guilty or not guilty, while aged 10, to the unlawful killing on 3 June. There was a pause, in the best traditions of the Old Bailey, before the words not guilty, uttered in a soft, shrill voice, were heard from the dock. They were the last he had to speak from that place.

More than three hours later, during which legal arguments had been raised in the absence of the jury, he emerged and embraced his defence counsel, Georges Khayat QC, professing himself 'glad' with the outcome.

It would have been alleged the boy, who cannot be named, kicked Rosetta Forth during an argument as he tried to retrieve his football from her east London garden. The prosecution had asked the judge to order a not-guilty verdict after two pathologists agreed the blood clot which killed the woman could have happened naturally.

Again clutching one of his mother's hands, the boy was bundled out of court, his shoelace still trailing behind him.