The Metropolitan Police have issued a formal apology to Tracey Ford, the founder of a Croydon-based charity, after they failed to inform her that a coroner’s inquest was being held into the murder of her teenaged son that happened 10 years ago.
James Andre Smartt-Ford was shot while attending a birthday party at Streatham ice rink in February 2007. He was 17 at the time.
Although there were more than 300 people attending the party and a £20,000 reward offered for information which would help to catch the killers, the police have never charged anyone with Smartt-Ford’s murder.
Today, Tracey Ford told Inside Croydon that the staging of the inquest, at Southwark Crown Court last week, and the failure of the authorities to advise her and her family of the coroner’s hearing, was like “re-living the murder again”.
“What more do we as families have to endure to get justice for our children?” Ford said.
Ford only found out about the coroner’s inquest after being contacted by an Evening Standard journalist.
Assistant coroner Dr Philip Barlow apologised to the family in court. “Attempts were made but they weren’t successful,” he said. “For one reason or another that communication has broken down.
“To attend an inquest in these circumstances is difficult enough and on behalf of the police and the court we apologise for any added distress.”
During the proceedings, it was revealed that the police inquiries had led to 18 arrests, but no one had been charged.
According to a report in the Standard, forensics have not yet been able to identify DNA samples found on two gun cartridges found at the scene.
Dr Barlow gave a verdict of unlawful killing, agreeing with the post-mortem examination that Smartt-Ford had died from a single gunshot wound to the heart. “I have no doubt that Andre was deliberately shot,” the coroner said. “I can’t say whether he was the intended victim. At this stage there is no reasonable likelihood of criminal proceedings being brought in the near future.”
Following her son’s death, Tracey Ford established The JAGS Foundation, a charity which aims to reduce levels of youth-on-youth crime, particularly violent crime, and to help and support those families affected by such crime.
Today, she expressed her disgust and anger at the manner that her family had been treated by the authorities over the coroner’s inquest.
“With the Victims’ Commissioner, strategy after strategy of the Government and the MacPherson report highlighting the failures in the police investigations of murder, we are still facing failure after failure in case after case of young black men,” Ford said.
“Why is there no redress for families whose children have died senselessly? All we ever get is ‘sorry’ from the IPCC and no one to be held accountable for the hundreds of unsolved cases of youth-on-youth murders in London.”
And commenting on the case of her own son, Ford said, “There will never be any resolution until the person who killed Andre is caught.
“No matter how many years later, whether someone goes to prison or not, it’s never going to heal this shattered heart I have.”
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