Damilola boy has string of convictions

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One of the three boys accused of murdering 10-year-old Damilola Taylor has a string of criminal convictions for theft, assault and cannabis possession, a jury at the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

The criminal background of one of two brothers, both aged 16, known as boy A, was revealed by his lawyer.

Courtenay Griffiths QC said his client was given a conditional discharge for taking a moped and riding it with no insurance on 5 January 2000. About two months later, he received an 18-hour attendance centre order for taking a moped. On 17 June 2000, he was convicted of going equipped to steal. In August of the same year, he received a 12-month supervision order and given a £30 fine for theft and possession of cannabis.

He was sentenced to a four-month detention order for taking a moped in March 2001. Two months later he received a £50 fine for assaulting a policeman.

The disclosure followed allegations that the brothers were among a group of youths who swore and threatened police after being arrested. Boy A is also accused of putting his hand though the hatch of a cell door and making the sign of a gun with his fingers and saying "boom".

The prosecution says the brothers were heard, while in the cell, concocting a false alibi for 27 November 2000, the day Damilola was stabbed to death with a broken bottle in Peckham, south-east London.

PC Stephen Humphrey told the jury yesterday that he was abused as he sat outside cells at a north London police station where some of the youths were taken on 14 December 2000.

The officer said he wrote down bits of conversation he overheard during the four hours he was on duty. At one point boy A accused the officer of calling his mother a bitch. He also allegedly made the gun sign.

The second brother, boy B, allegedly told the officer: "I am going to have you when I get out."

The court was told that boy A, who was 15 at the time, responded to police questioning about the stabbing by saying: "Prove I was there, prove I was there that day." Later he told officers: "I didn't kill this little boy."

Mr Griffiths, for the defence, said that the cells had been bugged after police had conducted a "trawling operation" for information by rounding up 11 youths who lived in the Peckham area.

The brothers and a 15-year-old boy deny murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob.

A fourth youth walked free from court on Wednesday after the judge, Mr Justice Hooper, directed the jury to find him not guilty, having thrown out the discredited evidence of a 14-year-old girl who claimed she had witnessed the killing.

The judge said the girl had "a fertile imagination" and had repeatedly changed her story, telling "embellished lies", so much so that the jury could not be sure that she was telling the truth about "anything important".

Mr Justice Hooper openly criticised the police for the way they had treated the witness, saying there had been a "very real danger" that she had been persuaded to lie about the killing because of the inducements offered to her.