Leading article: Belatedly, justice is done

Share

The stabbing of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor on a Peckham housing estate six years ago is one of those crimes that has defined the consciousness of modern Britain. Like the murder of Stephen Lawrence it put the spotlight on the police. Their apparent inability to catch the killers in both cases cast doubt over the effectiveness of our criminal justice system. Vital forensic leads were overlooked in the wake of Damilola's death. A chance six years ago to prosecute Danny and Rickie Preddie - the two young men convicted yesterday of Damilola's manslaughter - was missed. And a trial four years ago ended in fiasco after the testimony of a teenage witness, whom the police should have realised was unreliable, was rejected by the court.

But the wider social significance of each case was different. The Lawrence killing prompted a national debate about racism in our society that still goes on today. The killing of Damilola raised issues of a different, although not less disturbing, kind. The fact that a schoolboy could be left to bleed to death in a filthy stairwell woke many of us up to the Hobbesian nature of life in our deprived inner cities. We were forced to confront a world that the more fortunate among us often choose to ignore. This is a world in which poverty, total family breakdown, drug abuse, crime and random violence have reached terrible proportions; a world that decades of social initiatives from central and local government have failed substantially to improve.

Another aspect of this case appalled us. Despite the inability of the police to identify Damilola's killers, there was never much doubt that they were children themselves. We hoped after the death of James Bulger that the killing of children by other children was some sort of grotesque anomaly. Damilola's death plunged us back into an old nightmare.

Peckham has improved in the past six years. The squalid block of flats where Damilola died has been demolished. A good deal of public money has been spent on regeneration. But we should not allow ourselves to imagine that there are not many overlooked corners of the country that remain just as devoid of hope as Peckham was at the time of this killing. We learned this week that the number of knife attacks has risen dramatically in the past year. This is not a problem for the inner cities alone. But that is where such crime is concentrated.

We welcome the fact that Damilola's parents have seen their son's killers brought to justice at last. But, in truth, this verdict can provide no real comfort for our society because all too many parts of the Britain in which Damilola briefly lived and died remain largely, and depressingly, unchanged.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: odd pub names, final polls in Scotland and war historians

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week