Damilola: Attorney General orders inquiry into prosecution blunders

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The Independent Online

The row over police and prosecution blunders in the Damilola Taylor investigation deepened last night when the Attorney General ordered an inquiry into the handling of the case.

Lord Goldsmith QC, the Government's chief law officer, said that the Crown Prosecution Service must see what "lessons" need to be learnt from the Old Bailey trial in which all four defendants were acquitted.

The review was announced as a separate battle between prosecution lawyers and police intensified over an alibi given by two brothers cleared of the killing on Thursday. Scotland Yard sources said they were mystified over prosecutors' handling of evidence that the teenagers made calls on their mobile phones 1.8 miles from the crime scene in Peckham, south London, just seven minutes after the killing.

Lord Goldsmith said it should not be assumed that the acquittals were a failure of the criminal justice system or the CPS, headed by David Calvert-Smith QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). But he added: "It is important now that we take time to learn any lessons. I have therefore asked the DPP to look into the handling of the case ... and to make recommendations."

Government plans to abolish the rule that prevents a defendant being tried twice for the same offence could lead to a further trial of all four teenagers acquitted of the murder. A spokeswoman for the Home Office confirmed yesterday that ministers were "committed to bring in legislation" as soon as parliamentary time allowed.

The CPS and the Yard traded blows meanwhile over their tackling of the alibi evidence produced by the two brothers as doubts emerged over its accuracy. The trial judge, Mr Justice Hooper, told the jury that on the basis of the Crown's own case, it was not possible for the teenagers to have stabbed Damilola and then travelled on foot to make the calls. However a much shorter route of 1.3 miles, passing through Burgess Park and which could be completed in seven minutes, had been found by police but not highlighted to the jury. The CPS said the short cut had been put to the jury, albeit in passing testimony.