A 15-year-old youth has been sentenced to six years and six months in custody for fatally stabbing a black teenager who was chased and subjected to “disgusting” racist abuse.
The killer, who cannot be named because of his age, was ordered to be detained on Friday by a judge at Birmingham Crown Court, who said an earlier confrontation “did not remotely justify” the attack on 14-year-old Dea-John Reid.
Dea-John was knifed in the chest by the 15-year-old on May 31 last year in the Kingstanding area of Birmingham after being chased by a five-strong group who arrived in a car.
Jurors convicted the killer of manslaughter but acquitted him of murder after an earlier trial which heard that an attempt had been made to mug one of his friends.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Johnson told the youth by a video-link to a secure unit: “Whatever was done by the other group it did not remotely justify or excuse what happened next.
“This was an offence which involved others and in which you took a leading role.
“Your co-defendants were acquitted by a jury of homicide. But that does not mean that they had no involvement in what you did.”
Mr Justice Johnson added that a man who chased Dea-John had earlier shouted “disgusting” and “terrible” racist abuse.
The judge told the 15-year-old, who wore gloves and a balaclava to carry out the killing: “The CCTV shows that there was a concerted chase of Dea-John, which was led by you and which involved four others.
“If an adult did what you did then that would almost certainly be murder and they would be sentenced to life imprisonment.”
The judge rejected an application to lift an order protecting the identity of the boy, who was told he will serve half his sentence in custody but could be returned to detention if he did not “follow rules”.
He was also informed that time spent on remand will be taken off his term of custody, meaning he could be released within three years.
In a victim impact statement, Dea-John’s mother, Joan Morris, said her “handsome” son, a would-be footballer and dentist who was unarmed, had been “hunted by a lynch mob reminiscent of a scene from Mississippi Burning”.
In her statement, read to the court by family friend Bishop Desmond Jaddoo, Ms Morris said the killer had deliberately picked up a kitchen knife, placed it down his tracksuit trousers, and then chased Dea-John with a knife raised in the air.
After sitting through the trial and watching the last moments of her son’s life on CCTV footage, Ms Morris said the verdict of manslaughter and the acquittal of four other defendants had added insult to injury.
She said: “This verdict of manslaughter, whilst the others are all found not guilty, just goes to prove to me that the life of Dea-John Reid, my son, a young black man, didn’t matter.
“This only highlights the ongoing question, ‘Do black lives really matter?’
“As far as I am concerned many will say that this young man has been held accountable for killing my son, however I do wonder, if the roles were reversed, what the verdict may well have been?
“I do believe that a system that I decided to trust has completely let me, my family, my community, including the friends of Dea-John, down.”
Speaking outside court on behalf of the family, Mr Jaddoo said: “Whilst welcoming that someone has been held to account for causing Dea-John’s death… today we hear that the young man found culpable for his death will serve, physically, less than three years in prison.
“Clearly the family are upset. This Government has to change the law. Dea-John’s death must not be in vain.”
West Midlands Police treated the killing as racially aggravated due to a racial slur shouted at Dea-John’s group from a car.
After the sentencing, Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards said: “Dea-John was a 14-year-old boy – just a child with his whole life ahead of him.
“He had no convictions or cautions, he was an innocent boy.
“To have lost his life in such an appalling way, shattering all the hopes his family had to see him grow up, is absolutely tragic.”