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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all