3 Dec 2021

Exclusive: Number of teenagers convicted of murder more than doubles in 5 years

Social Affairs Editor and Presenter

The number of teenagers convicted of murder has more than doubled in five years in England and Wales, according to government data exclusively obtained by Channel 4 News.

From 2016 to 2020, the number of teenagers convicted of murder jumped from 26 to 56 – with a peak of 66 in 2019, according to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures released through a Freedom of Information request.

This comes in the week that 14-year-old Yussuf Mustapha was jailed along with three other teenagers for murdering Keon Lincoln, 15, in Birmingham after he was shot and stabbed yards from his home.

Lillian Serunkuma, whose son Quamari was stabbed to death aged 15 outside of his school gates by another 15-year-old, told Channel 4 News: “The victims are getting younger each time, so are the perpetrators.

“We need to be accountable. Personally, I feel like we need to do a lot more than what’s currently being done.”

Crime and Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the government was “doing everything in our power to keep young people safe”.

‘Young people are killing young people’

Quamari’s killer was one of 31 teenagers in England and Wales to be convicted of murder in 2017.

Since her son was murdered, Ms Serunkuma has been to “loads of meetings” with government officials where they talk of tackling youth violence.

“But it’s actually implementing and doing something which seems to be on a standstill,” she told Channel 4 News.

In 2019, two years on from Quamari’s killing, the number of teenagers being jailed for murder had soared to 66, according to the MoJ figures.

Speaking of the moment she learnt the age of her son’s killer, Ms Serunkuma said: “There was a little bit of naivety from my perspective, in the fact that I would never have expected it to be someone so young.

“But I guess this is something that’s becoming a very regular occurrence.”

Quamari would have turned 20 this year if his life hadn’t been cut short outside the school gates in north-west London.

“It’s pretty sad that something like that happened to someone that was so full of life,” Ms Serunkuma said.

“He was just a very fun loving person, didn’t have any enemies, just enjoyed being a child.”

She added: “I think [he] would have made a really good contribution within our community.

“However, that was taken away from us.”

‘We’ve become desensitised’

Channel 4 News has heard numerous warnings that there could be a spike in youth crime in the coming years as the impact of lockdowns are felt.

This year, 28 teenagers have been killed in London – the highest death toll in more than a decade.

Dame Claudine Duberry, who has worked with high risk young people for decades, said: “I think we’ve become desensitised.

“There’s too many murders, children killing children. Children becoming the victim, children becoiming the perpetrator.

“And I think the attitude being taken is ‘it’s not in my backyard so it doesn’t really matter’.”

When a young person is killed, statutory authorities can launch Child Safeguarding Practice Review – formerly known as Serious Case Reviews.

This would allow them to investigate how services may have failed certain children.

Dame Claudine told Channel 4 News the government should make better use of this type of review to explore why some young people go on to kill.

She said: “We spend a lot of time [and] energy on Serious Case Reviews when a child is killed – especially one that is known to social services – but a lot of the time these children who murder are also known to social services or all the signs are there that they should be.

“So, really we should be doing some sort of investigation that says: where can we learn the lessons? Where were the signs? What are we missing?’

“Because if we don’t, the numbers are just going to keep on climbing and what does that say for society?”

In response to our findings, Crime and Policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “The Government is determined to tackle the underlying causes of serious violence and are redoubling our efforts with a twin-track approach, combining tough enforcement to get dangerous weapons off the streets – including through stop and search methods – with programmes that steer young people away from crime.”

Produced by: Jamie Roberton and Calum Fraser