Teenagers unfairly jailed over chat messages

Teenagers unfairly jailed over chat messages

Teenagers unfairly jailed over chat messages

Teenagers unfairly jailed over chat messages(credits:google)

  • Four teenagers should not have been jailed for conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. They were convicted after posting messages on social media about revenge attacks.
  • The Crown Prosecution Service responded that the charges were “right”.
  • Drill music is a type of rap music that features violent imagery and language. The CPS told the BBC that it is “aware of the complexities of prosecuting allegations of gang involvement”.

According to a Labour MP, four teenagers should not have been sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm.

The young men were convicted after sending social media messages about revenge attacks three days after the death of a friend.

Lucy Powell, in a letter to the justice secretary, stated that they were being “punished for their hazy association with others.”

The Crown Prosecution Service responded that their “legal test was met” and that the charges were “right.”

The charges centred on the planning and execution of three attacks in the aftermath of John Soyoye’s murder on November 5, 2020.

The nine-week trial at Manchester Crown Court involved a total of ten defendants, all of whom were young black men. At the time of the offences, seven of them were 17 years old.


Six of them were found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and sentenced to eight years in prison: Ademola Adedeji, Raymond Savi, Azim Okunola, Omolade Okoya, Martin Thomas, and Simon Thorne.

A group chat set up on the messaging app Telegram by seven of the boys three days after Mr Soyoye’s death was crucial evidence.

They talked about Mr. Soyoye’s death and plotting revenge attacks on those they believed were responsible. No one named as a possible target in their chat was ever harmed.

The majority of the messages were sent in the first 24 hours, and the chat went silent after less than a week.

Adedeji, Savi, Okunola, and Okoya were not involved in any further online discussions about the attacks and did not take part in any subsequent violence. They had no prior convictions and were all enrolled in or about to enrol in university.

Three of the boys convicted based on their participation in the Telegram chat have asked to have their sentences overturned.


Four of the ten defendants, Harry Oni, Jeffrey Ojo, Gideon Kalumda, and Brooklyn Jitobah, were found guilty of conspiracy to murder and sentenced to 20 to 21 years in prison.

The prosecution’s focus on the Telegram chat, according to the Manchester Central MP, meant that the boys were “being prosecuted based on messages sent while they were trying to navigate their grief.”

Adedeji had an unconditional offer to study law from Birmingham University and had previously written a book about empowering his community. He had posted 11 messages in the Telegram chat room.

In a letter to trial judge Mr Justice Goose, he apologised for the messages, saying they were sent after “emotions got the better of me… because someone I regarded as a younger brother had been ruthlessly taken away.”

“I didn’t mean a word I said,” he wrote, “and I feel like I ruined my life.”

Mr Justice Goose acknowledged in his sentencing remarks for Savi and Adedeji that their participation was brief, but that the Telegram chat was “an open discussion about obtaining weapons” and “targeting a number of victims.”


“What is regrettable in the Manchester case, for those who did nothing more than send messages in a social media group, is their positive and constructive backgrounds appear to have been ignored,” Garry Green, a criminal barrister with Doughty Street Chambers, told the BBC.

“The CPS charging test involves an evaluation of the evidence and the public interest.”

He went on to say that there was a “tendency to adultify young black people,” which he defined as “a failure to see or recognise the humanity of young black people, treating them much older than they are and, in this case, likely seeing criminality as a rite of passage that means their future prospects are ignored or simply not seen.”

Mr Soyoye, who performed drill music under the alias “MD,” had known many of the ten defendants since they were in elementary school. Drill music is a type of rap music that features violent imagery and language.

Ms Powell slammed the prosecution’s use of “gang narratives,” saying they were based on “racialized assumptions, loose associations, and outdated or inaccurate stereotypes of inner-city neighbourhoods like Moston and Moss Side.”

However, the CPS told the BBC that it is “aware of the complexities of prosecuting cases involving allegations of gang involvement, and prosecutors have clear legal guidance to inform their considerations.” It stated that the evidence for “each individual in respect of each charge” had been “carefully assessed.”


Mr Green, who has collaborated with the law reform charity Justice to address racial inequalities in the legal system, told the BBC that “there is a disproportionate reliance on drill music in cases where young black males are prosecuted.”

“Black culture, or black cultural heritage, is arguably criminalised in ways that other musical genres are not,” he said.

According to a BBC investigation, the use of drill music as criminal evidence in courtrooms is increasing, but its use as evidence has been criticised by some academics and legal professionals.

The CPS has stated that it is reviewing its guidance on the use of drill music in prosecutions. However, the CPS’s chief prosecutor, Max Hill QC, confirmed in June 2022 that if a defendant appears in a drill music video with co-defendants, “prosecutors would consider whether it was vital evidence of association that a jury should hear.”

To show support for the boys, a demonstration was held in Manchester’s St Peter’s Square, and the youth community organisation Kids of Colour gathered over 500 offers of tutoring, mentoring, and other opportunities from the public, which were presented to the judge before sentencing.

Roxy Legane, the head of Kids of Colour, who was present throughout the trial, told the BBC that the trial demonstrated that “all ten boys were failed” and emphasised the lack of support available to them in the aftermath of losing a friend.


“We can only begin to break cycles of violence and trauma with solutions that address root causes,” she said. “The tools for positive change are available, but they are being rejected in favour of punitive punishment, which will never ensure the safety of our communities.”

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