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Regent’s Park Estate stabbing: Victim was excluded from school

'Talented' 16-year-old is one of the borough's youngest knife victims

15 August, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

A SIXTEEN year-old boy who was stabbed to death on the Regent’s Park estate had been excluded from a Camden secondary school last year, the New Journal understands.

Alex Smith died after being stabbed several times shortly after 11pm on Monday in Munster Square.

Murder detectives believe he was chased around the square before the attack. The suspects fled in a vehicle that was discovered burnt-out nearby. No one has been arrested so far.

Alex went to Acland Burghley School in Tufnell Park until last summer when he was excluded at the end of Year 10.

The New Journal has this year run a series of stories questioning links between exclusion rates and support available to troubled pupils.

Sources say Alex had been attending a pupil referral unit (PRU) and had contact with council youth services in Islington. He is believed to be one of Camden’s youngest knife crime victims.

Nicholas John, headteacher at Acland Burghley School, said: “Alex was a student at our school from November 2015 to July 2018.

“He was clever and talented, and well-liked by staff and students. He had many friends, and will be missed terribly by all those who taught and supported him during his time at the school. We are utterly devastated by his tragic death.”

In an emotional Instagram post last night (Wednesday), youth worker and activist Chris Preddie OBE said he worked with Alex six months ago, recalling: “I was working with him and he was going great … but you know what the school did, the school kicked him out.”

He did not name the school, but added: “I’m saying, sometimes we can do interventions, sometimes we can work with young people – but if it’s not going to be something that’s continuous … they think they can change a child in six hours.

“We really tried to support that child but didn’t have the resources, didn’t have the support, didn’t have the understanding, where sometimes the government and the organisations need to step up and do more, because that boy was crying out for help for a long time, for a long time now.

“I personally feel touched by this story because this young boy had so much potential.”

Acland Burghley, and Camden and Islington councils have not confirmed the reason for Alex’s exclusion.

Camden Council, which runs Acland Burghley, is currently probing possible links between knife crime and school exclusion rates, after data showed almost one in 10 students had been temporarily excluded in a single year.

The council has said the rates were expected to drop this year. A Town Hall scrutiny committee is due to report back with its findings following a special probe in September.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, told the New Journal this year how school children are much more likely to be vulnerable to grooming, gangs, serious violence and getting into trouble with the law once they have been excluded.

Campaigners have called for more support to help children at risk of exclusion to stay in school.

A new unit is due to be launched in the coming weeks at Haverstock School for pupils at risk of being kicked out of the classroom.

Camden secondary schools will be able send their students to the Camden Reintegration Base (CRIB) with the aim of keeping them in mainstream school. It is being made possible by £45,000 from the council’s youth safety taskforce, set up after a murder in 2017.

Councillor Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council and Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, said in a joint statement they were “devastated” about the fatal stabbing.

They added: “The victim was not a Camden resident but he was a 16- year-old child in our borough and we are working with the police, his home borough and all involved in this case to understand how this happened.

“Camden Community Presence Officers will be visiting the community to speak with residents, community groups and businesses to provide reassurance and support.

“Every time we lose a young life it causes deep pain for families and communities and is felt by all at the council.”

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Healy said: “We believe the victim was chased around the square by a number of suspects prior to being stabbed a number of times.

“The suspects made off in a vehicle which was discovered burnt out nearby. Another vehicle believed to be involved in the incident was also found burnt out some distance away.

“We’re still in the early stages of our investigation and we are urging those who have information to do the right thing and speak to us. I am sure that others will have seen something last night around the Munster Square area. I am also interested in those who may have dash-cam footage in the area at the time.”

Anyone with information that could assist the investigation is asked to call the incident room on 0208 358 0400 and quote CAD8433/ 12Aug, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via crimestoppers- uk.org/give-information

Young people with information can also leave messages with the charity Fearless via their website: fearless.org

Warning of more deaths

CAMPAIGNERS have again called for extra investment in grassroots groups to prevent young people being killed.

Michelle West, from the team at Camden Against Violence, said they were “firm supporters” in prevention, intervention and education around knife crime.

She added: “Unless there are large amounts of money invested in these areas, which are delivered directly to the source at grassroots levels, unfortunately violence disorder such as knife crime and murder will continue to increase.”

Elaine Donnellon, from campaign group Operation Shutdown, said: “The importance of prevention and early intervention, in tackling serious violence, cannot be underestimated.”

Camden Council this summer released £500,000 funding for community projects, as part of their youth safety taskforce work.

New probe into youth violence promised

CAMDEN Council has pledged to review every killing connected to youth violence over the past decade to see what lessons can be learned.

The vow was made at a meeting with Somali community leaders and police, after a man of Somali origin was fatally stabbed in South Hampstead last month.

Councillor Abdul Hai, cabinet member for young people and cohesion, said the Town Hall would probe each case from 2009.

“We want to know what is causing those [deaths] and what we can learn,” he said.

“We will be speaking to families, the community, professionals to understand and look at each of those cases and gather evidence for us to look at an overview and understanding as to whether there is a clear pattern.”

Abdul Hai

The council set up a Youth Safety Taskforce after a murder in 2017 to investigate the causes of knife crime. Cllr Hai said this probe would take a comprehensive look at each case.

  • A meeting will take place tonight (Thursday) in South Hampstead for residents to quiz the council on what they are doing to keep people safe. It will run from 6pm to 7.30pm at the tenants and residents association hall on the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate in Boundary Road.

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