A teenage knife crime victim who effectively died on the street for nearly an hour has told his attackers “I did not deserve this” as they were jailed for life.
James Bascoe-Smith, then aged 16, was left in a wheelchair after he was knocked off a bicycle and repeatedly knifed by masked men in Brixton, south London, last February 23.
The court heard James was the entirely innocent victim of a gang stabbing sparked either by a provocative online drill video or as “tit-for-tat” revenge for a previous attack.
On Friday, James was surrounded by family and friends at the Old Bailey as his two attackers were sentenced for conspiracy to murder.
Leon Rashid, 20, from Thornton Heath, south London, and Taiquane Lewis, 19, Kennington, south London, were each handed life sentences with minimum terms of 14 years and 13 years respectively.
During the hearing, a pre-recorded video was played in which James asked why the defendants targeted him and whether they now “feel bad”.
He said: “When I was stabbed by these people I remember crying out for my mum and pleading for them to stop.
“I do not remember much and I could not communicate for six months after the attack.
“Since the attack my life has changed.
“They have stopped me from driving, going on my first holiday with my friends to celebrate my 18th birthday, gymnastics coaching, working and from becoming a music producer as I was studying this in college.”
He described moving away from Brixton, leaving behind friends, neighbours and “everyone that I knew”.
He went on: “I now need a carer full time, they are complete strangers to me who come in to provide me my personal care, to feed and clothe me.
“I cannot get out of bed on my own, I can’t even brush my own teeth and I need a lot of medication to help me with my recovery.
“I have been left in a wheelchair that is not electric, I rely on everyone to move me, I have no independence.
“I now have a brain injury because my heart stopped for nearly an hour, I don’t think I will ever be able to work or study again.
“I was very active before the attack, I was very involved in my community and helping my family, I would pick up my little cousins from school help them with their work and I would coach them at gymnastics.
“I did not deserve this, I had no issues with anyone, I don’t know why they attacked me, I just want to know why they attacked me and if they feel bad for what they have done.”
He added: “I am grateful that the doctors saved my life but living like this is hard , I miss my friends , I miss my old life, every day I wake up knowing this is how I will be forever .
James had been testing a bicycle for his mother when he was targeted near his home.
After being repeatedly stabbed, he shouted “call my mum, call my mum” then collapsed.
He effectively died for nearly an hour before being brought back to life by medics.
He spent 174 days in hospital before being allowed home where he continues to work on his recovery, achieving 100 sit-ups in his wheelchair.
James’ family spoke of their determination to help prevent more innocent victims of knife crime.
His mother Lisa Bascoe-Smith, said: “James did not have any issues with anybody in the area. He is a happy boy, always smiling.
James’s aunt, Rachel Duncan, said: “James is a victim of a broken society. Our community needs healing, care, and hope we can overcome this evil that has plagued the community.
“We cannot give up on our youth.
“We have to learn to forgive.
“We truly need to end this cycle of violence that can often become generational.
“We need to eradicate knife violence on our streets.”
Prosecutor Edward Brown KC said: “It is extraordinary he is here to tell the tale.”
The court heard the defendants both had previous convictions for carrying knives.
A selection of “terrifying” knives were discarded by the fleeing attackers included a combat knife, a rambo-style blade and a zombie-style machete.
Sentencing, Judge Ian Bourne KC said: “No-one can fail to be deeply moved by the devastating effect the life changing and tragic events of February 23 2021 has had, not just for James Bascoe-Smith but his family, friends and the wider community.”
The court was told 12 “high harm” gangs had been identified in Southwark and Lambeth with knife crime returning to pre-pandemic levels in the area.
Speaking outside court, Ms Duncan: “Today is the end of our journey in the fight for justice.
“James was fortunate to survive. However, he has been left with severe life-changing injuries.
“This should not have happened. And I urge people who carry knives to stop. Please stop. The trauma caused to my nephew and my family – we are now living with the impact of knife violence forever.
“Our family will continue to campaign to eradicate the violence on our streets as we do not want another family to go through the trauma that we currently live in.
“We all need to sit up and stand up to knife violence.”
Detective Superintendent Neerav Patel said: “James was actually declared clinically dead 50 minutes after being run over and stabbed by cowards.
“He was completely innocent. He was just out riding his bicycle, checking that it was safe for his mum, while she waited on her doorstep for James to return. Sadly, he never did.
“Passers-by found James and offered immediate assistance and the paramedics who turned up refused to give up on James, and after nearly an hour of working on him, managed to bring him back to life.
“It really is remarkable that James is still with us today. In my view, James is nothing short of a miracle, and a beacon of light in the evil that is knife crime.
“My final word is to those who think they can get away with carrying out serious acts of violence on our streets and my message to them is clear and it’s that we will not stop pursuing you until you face justice.”
David Malone, deputy chief prosecutor for CPS London South, said: “The first and last word in this case belongs to James Bascoe-Smith, his mum Lisa and their family whose heroism and dignity throughout contrasts startlingly with the cowardice of those sentenced here today, gang members who have shown no remorse for their despicable actions.
“James’s determination has been an inspiration behind this painstaking investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service and the successful prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service, assisted by counsel.
“Our diligent co-operation in dealing with this brutal act of gang violence has ensured that justice has been delivered. “