Damilola’s dad demands halving of youth violence in two years

The father of murdered 10-year-old Damilola Taylor has demanded London’s youth violence figures be cut in half within two years.
Richard Taylor has called for a 50 per cent reduction in knife and gang crime in time for the 20th anniversary of his son’s death, on
November 27, 2020.
Damilola had been studying at Peckham Library in November 2000 but died of a stab wound on his way home.
His killing shocked the nation. But the number of murders of young men has been soaring this year – there were five stabbing deaths in South London in a single week up to November 5.
And Mr Taylor demanded it stop, speaking at the Damilola Taylor Memorial Lecture at London’s City Hall on December 7, on what would have been his son’s 29th birthday.
Mr Taylor said: “We are looking to mark the 20th anniversary of Damilola’s death with a theme A Vision of Change.
“We are planning a peace concert at the Albert Hall with charities and a memorial service at Southwark Cathedral. The campaign will call for the Government to reduce youth violence by 50 per cent through the public health model (PHM). We want an end to the devastation that youth violence is causing in London.
“When my son Damilola died, it shocked the whole of the UK and it seemed the entire country was in mourning. Now the murders have become such an everyday occurrence, young people kill each other with what seems like impunity. And it continues despite all the amazing work of our community organisations.
“Such a figure of reduction is demanded – requested even – from the Government. We have been waiting too long.
“The success of the PHM in Scotland gives us hope – hope which has been in short supply in the last year.
“This model treats violence as a disease. After such a long time of shared pain and anguish, where things were getting worse and worse, I hope and pray we can see a new way forward.”
There were 118 murders in London this year up to November 26 – and 116 in the capital
last year. South London had 17 last year but has already had 32 up to
November 5 this year.
Thirty seven children and teenagers have been stabbed to death so for this year in England and Wales – figures which have been rising for five years.
But there were only two knife deaths of under 20s in Scotland. The number of murders has gone down in the past 10 years from 162 per year in Scotland to 60.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced in September he would adopt the PHM and Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced at the Conservative Party annual conference his department would follow suit a month later.
The rapid adoption of the PHM followed a cross-party Parliamentary Commission on Youth Violence (PCYV), chaired by Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford Vicky Foxcroft, which recommended adoption of the PHM in London – it has already become policy in Lambeth. It has been backed by the South London Press, which adopted a campaign, the Lambeth Walk, in July.
Ms Foxcroft said: “It is great that the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has launched a violence reduction unit (VRU) and that he is taking the advice from Scotland and is appointing its director.
“The Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said he will have a public health approach but we will have a debate in Parliament about this.
“Our report will not be one that will just sit on the shelf. We will campaign with parliamentarians and community leaders and the police. If we come together as a community we can achieve amazing things.”
Karyn McCluskey, co-founder of the highly-successful Scottish VRU, said: “I wish Richard’s and my paths had never crossed – that he had never been blighted by this. There have been too many tragedies. Every time, a mother will say: ‘Why did it happen to my child?’
“We seem powerless to act. We could become weighed down by the task in front of us.
“But violence is preventable. It’s within our grasp to make this country better.
“Arrests damage social bonds. There are so many families where prison has become the norm – grandfathers, fathers and sons behind bars. We’ve got a contagion of punishing people. It is as much a part of their lives as going to see a doctor.
“But we harnessed thousands of people and made them do something different – ­there are thousands of people behind me and beside me and in front of me who had been overwhelmed.
“We were ostracised. Colleagues would say they just had to get back to work. So we had to fix things while it was moving.
“We told carers and teachers about ‘zero exclusions’ from schools, and that made a difference.
“I am a collector of great people. Youth work is pretty spectacular – diverting young people infected by the justice system. Offending is like measles and TB – the best time to stop it is before it starts.
“We will look back in 20 years and be ashamed of how far we let it get.
“I feel like Sisyphus – always pushing the boulder up the
mountain, and it rolling back down. But the climb will be worth it from the views we get at the top.
“This is tough work but it’s not half as tough as it has been for the victims and their families.”
Ricky Gavin Preddie and Danny Charles Preddie, after a 33-day retrial, were convicted in August 2006 of the manslaughter of Damilola Taylor. They were 12 and 13 at the time Damilola died.
In October 2006, the brothers were
sentenced at the Old Bailey to eight years in youth custody.

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