The Death of Jaden Moodie was a Multi-Agency Failure
Family members launched the Jaden Moodie Foundation to honour the 14-year-old boy stabbed to death in Leyton. Source: East London & West Essex Guardian
In January 2019, 14 year-old Jaden Moodie was knocked off his moped and stabbed fatally nine times in Leyton. A serious case review by the safeguarding children board of Waltham Forest Council had been investigating the handling of the case, which led to the teenager’s death. It’s endemic of a larger issue where historically and systemically, Black people have been neglected and ignored at an institutional level.
Last month, The Guardian reported that in October 2018, Dorset Police discovered Moodie in a ‘cuckoo’ property in Bournemouth in possession of 39 wraps of cocaine and £325 in cash. Whilst Dorset Police did later inform police in London they made no other efforts to safeguard the 14 year old; a report where Moodie was referred to as ‘Child C’ described the incident as a ‘reachable moment’, where authorities could’ve but failed to act and respond effectively.
Because the police failed to put the necessary safeguarding measures in place following concerns raised that Jaden was groomed, their negligence contributed to the death of the 14 year-old. However, Moodie’s death also highlights the failures in Britain’s schools, which disproportionally exclude and punish Black Caribbean children. Advocacy from No More Exclusions shows that there is a strong link between exclusions, mental health, youth offending and poor life chances: 61% of excluded children will go to prison and the numbers are rising.
The school-to-prison pipeline isn’t quite an accurate depiction either as many such as Jaden fall victim to fatal circumstances before their time. Jaden had spent three of his last 22 months out of school and was sleeping on his grandmother’s couch as far back as April 2018 while his mum pursued the housing applications. Though no formal evidence was found that his death could’ve been prevented, it isn’t hard to see that if he and his family had been rehoused and Jaden wasn’t expelled from school, the exploitation and grooming that Jaden experienced could have been avoided.
Many reports described Jaden Moodie as a ‘young man’, and all too often adultification occurs when discussing young black boys and youth violence. It’s important to recognise that young black people are often forced to mature much earlier than their peers and in Jaden’s case, often criminalised as early as school. Labour and Co-Operative MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy recently wrote a letter to the Home Office, seeking to discuss the review and child exploitation and grooming into gangs. The county lines narrative has been misleading as when it comes to safeguarding and protecting young people from exploitation; policing will continue to fail black youth.
The tragedy also forces us to reexamine our ideas of ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’, with many young people and children caught up in drug distribution and gang violence often simultaneously both perpetrator and victim. This complex and nuanced reality also highlights the limits and dangers of such tactics as the gang matrix - a surveillance database of suspected gang-involved people which has received much criticism from organizations such as StopWatch and others and is widely considered to contribute to human rights violations.
Jaden’s sister Leah highlights that “our lives would have been completely different had the UK Home Office let my dad stay here”, pointing to the UK’s violent deportation laws which saw Jaden and Leah separated from their parent. While the absence of his father by no means was the cause of Jaden’s tragedy, it does highlight how state violence weaponises the family structure.
Like many others, Jaden’s death wasn’t led by a single issue but repeated and consecutive systemic failures that ultimately led to him slipping through the various safety nets created to protect vulnerable children. The 2016 death of Sarah Reed in Holloway Prison is also exemplary of this: Sarah’s death would have been avoided had she not been neglected by a string of services, including mental health and housing. This multi-agency failure extends beyond any one problem, highlighting that when it comes to justice for black people, a multi-agency, intersectional approach that recognises multiple, overlapping actors must be taken.
20% of child homicide victims in England & Wales are Black. Therefore, the risk of homicide for Black children is disproportionate. Wondering how you can support those rising up against youth violence in the UK? Check out the work of 4Front here: https://www.4frontproject.org