The grieving family of a murdered Muslim teenager have said they feel let down by police and prosecutors due to the failure to secure a conviction eight years after they lost their son.
AbdulKarim Boudiaf, an aspiring lawyer from Tottenham, was 18 when he was fatally shot in the neck while walking with friends outside a pub in north London in 2009. A man stood trial for his death, but no one has ever been convicted.
The family, with the backing of their local MP David Lammy, are now calling on police to reactivate the investigation.
They said that the initial police inquiry felt “cursory” and left them feeling discriminated against because of their race and class background.
Mr Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, raised concerns in the House of Commons earlier this week. He said that the family’s race and ethnicity could have played a factor in their ability to get justice for Mr Boudiaf, adding that it had “echoes” of the Stephen Lawrence case.
He also called on ministers to review the law around the double jeopardy law, urging that the legislation is “fundamentally flawed” and could be preventing miscarriages of justice from being overturned.
Double jeopardy legislation previously protected anyone acquitted of an offence from retrial, but changes to the law in 2005 meant a suspect can be tried again for the same offence if there is “new, compelling, reliable and substantial evidence”.
But Mr Lammy claimed that while the rule is good in principle, it is restrictive in practice, as it means cases can remain open but dormant for years because further evidence hasn’t been presented to police – which has occurred in the case of Mr Boudaif’s murder.
Karim, as the murdered 18-year-old was known to his family, was a talented and outgoing young man with aspirations of attending Northampton University to read Law.
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Boudiaf’s sister Yasmine Boudiaf said the family’s dealings with the police and the outcome of the trial revealed that they system is “not made” to help the needs of minority ethnic groups in low income areas.
The 28-year-old, who was studying at university at the time of her brother’s murder, said her mother, Ouahiba, became quickly aware during the investigation and trial that her son’s murder would get more attention and media coverage if they were a white family in a more wealthy area.
“My mother went into the investigation already lacking confidence in the system, and she came out of it with confirmation that the system is against her," she said. "The police and others dealing with her were mainly white men and one white woman.
“She quickly became aware that if a white British son was murdered it would get coverage, but in our neighbourhood it would only be covered by local news. It became clear that the system is not made to help the needs of minority ethnic people especially in low income areas.
“We’d all been aware of the perception of particularly young men from minority ethnic backgrounds from socially deprived areas. They’re so vilified in lots of different ways. My brother didn’t have a criminal record, he just presented as your typical youth.”
Ouahiba Boudiaf, Mr Boudiaf’s mother, who was too emotional to speak on the phone, provided a statement saying her family was “tortured every day”. She questioned whether things would be different if she were a white woman who was educated and wealthy.
“I often question what I could have done differently, as a mother, but sometimes we cannot keep our loved ones from harm," she said. "I also question what the police and crown prosecution service could have done differently to bring my son’s killer to justice."
“Why was there a lack of forensic evidence? Why weren’t the witnesses believed? What if I were a white woman, who was educated and wealthy?”
She added: “I am grateful that I have been listened to and taken seriously by David Lammy. He is so far the only person in authority who is at least trying. My son is gone, and that is a pain I can’t describe. To not get justice on top of that is unbearable.”
Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this week, Mr Lammy said: “The Boudiafs are a proud loving family of Algerian descent, who have close ties to the Algerian community within my constituency and across London.
“It is a cause of real concern that any family would feel that their race and ethnicity could influence and play a factor in whether the person responsible for a murder is brought to justice. Unfortunately, this is very much the situation the Boudiaf family are faced with.
“To the family the Police efforts felt cursory. I understand it is still an open case but there is no active investigation being undertaken. For there to be an active investigation, the Homicide and Serious Crime Command would need to review the case. I am calling for a review and an active investigation as we approach the 10th anniversary of Karim’s death.”
The Labour MP also called for the Government to review double jeopardy legislation, saying the requirement for new, compelling, reliable and substantial evidence was “restrictive” and failed to consider circumstances such as witness intimidation and shortcomings on the part of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
“Whilst I of course appreciate the principle of the double jeopardy rule, I am concerned that the rule is fundamentally flawed,” he told the House. “It is time for the Government to review how this rule is operating in practice, and whether the rule is working as it was designed or whether it is in fact actually preventing miscarriages from being overturned, resulting in guilty individuals avoiding justice.”
The MP cited figures from the Criminal Law Review published in 2014 suggesting that the scope for retrials of acquitted individuals under the legislation is too narrow.
They show that only thirteen applications for retrials were made to the Court of Appeal, under the provisions of the double jeopardy rule. Out of thirteen applications, nine applications resulted in retrials, and out of those nine retrials, the defendants from seven cases were retried and convicted — with two defendants convicted on a guilty plea. Just one case was acquitted.
“This evidence clearly highlights how restrictive the double jeopardy rule is,” he said.
Mr Lammy also raised concerns that police services lacked the resources they needed to actively investigate open cases, saying: “The Met is already having to find £1 billion of cuts, which has seen the loss of 2,800 staff and the closure of police stations across the capital in recent years.
“In this context, clearly there are significant pressures on resource that need to be addressed so that the police can pursue these investigations into open cases.”
Responding to the comments, London's Metropolitan Police said the force “understood the family’s frustration and pain” at the fact that no one had been brought to justice for Mr Boudaif’s murder, but urged that any new information that comes to light would be considered.
A spokesperson said three men had been arrested "two of these within four days of the murder."
They added: "One was charged with murder, and two were charged with assisting an offender. All three were subsequently acquitted following a trial at the Old Bailey in November 2009. In 2015 and 2016, the Met relaunched media appeals to progress the investigation and seek any previously undisclosed information. However, this did not result in any significant information that could assist the inquiry team.
“The case remains open and, while there are no active lines of enquiry at this time, any new information that comes to light will be considered."
They said: “Officers, including family liaison officers, remained in contact with Abdulkarim’s family during the initial police investigation and further reinvestigation and appeal phase. The Met understands their frustration and pain that no one has yet to be brought to justice for his murder.”
Responding to Mr Lammy on behalf of the Government, Solicitor General Robert Buckland said he heard what the labour MP was saying with “the greatest clarity”.
He added: “I can assure him that the matter will be given the most anxious and serious consideration. Questions that he raises about the absence of the murder weapon, the evidence of motive – all these matters must be seriously considered, and I give him that assurance.”
He said there was “no evidence currently” that it would be in the interest of justice to ask for a retrial in the case.
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