Family sob in court as men jailed for knife attack which left teen 'dead' for 50 minutes

James Bascoe-Smith speaking outside the court after his attackers were jailed Credit: PA

Two young men have been jailed for life after stabbing a 16-year-old, who effectively died for nearly an hour on a street near his home in Brixton, south London.

Leon Rashid, 20, and Taiquana Lewis, 19, were today sentenced at the Old Bailey after being found guilty of assaulting James Bascoe-Smith last year as the now-18-year-old's family sobbed.

Mr Bascoe-Smith was left needing to use a wheelchair and struggling to communicate as a result of the attack.

Rashid was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 14 years and Lewis was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 13 years.

As his attackers were sentenced, James told them “I did not deserve this”.

Leon Rashid (left) and Taiquane Lewis (right) were both handed life sentences at the Old Bailey Credit: Met Police

The teenager was effectively dead for nearly an hour after being subjected to a “brutal and terrible” knife attack in the street, jurors heard during the trial.

He was defibrillated four times - and only on the fourth attempt did his heart start beating again.

James was said to have been “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when he was targeted in Brixton, south London, on 23 February last year.

He suffered extensive injuries to his organs and the damage means he now uses a wheelchair and requires constant care and support - something he will likely need for the rest of his life.

During the horrific attack, Mr Bascoe-Smith shouted  “call my mum, call my mum” after he was knocked off a bicycle and repeatedly stabbed by masked men, the Old Bailey heard.

The court heard James was the entirely innocent victim of a gang stabbing sparked either by a provocative online drill video or as “tit-for-tat” revenge for a previous attack.

James Bascoe-Smith as his aunt Rachel Duncan speaks to the media outside the Old Bailey, London Credit: PA

During the hearing, Rashid from Thornton Heath, south London, and Lewis from Kennington, south London, were asked by James in a pre-recorded video why the defendants targeted him and whether they now “feel bad”.

He said: “When I was stabbed by these people I remember crying out for my mum and pleading for them to stop.

“I do not remember much and I could not communicate for six months after the attack. Since the attack my life has changed.

“They have stopped me from driving, going on my first holiday with my friends to celebrate my 18th birthday, gymnastics coaching, working and from becoming a music producer as I was studying this in college.”

James effectively died for almost an hour after he was nocked off a bicycle and repeatedly knifed by masked men in Brixton last year Credit: PA

He described moving away from Brixton, leaving behind friends, neighbours and “everyone that I knew”.

He added: “I now need a carer full time, they are complete strangers to me who come in to provide me my personal care, to feed and clothe me.

“I cannot get out of bed on my own, I can’t even brush my own teeth and I need a lot of medication to help me with my recovery.

“I have been left in a wheelchair that is not electric, I rely on everyone to move me, I have no independence.

“I now have a brain injury because my heart stopped for nearly an hour, I don’t think I will ever be able to work or study again.

“I was very active before the attack, I was very involved in my community and helping my family, I would pick up my little cousins from school help them with their work and I would coach them at gymnastics.

“I did not deserve this, I had no issues with anyone, I don’t know why they attacked me, I just want to know why they attacked me and if they feel bad for what they have done.”

James with his aunt outside the Old Bailey Credit: PA

Mr Bascoe-Smith continued: “I am grateful that the doctors saved my life but living like this is hard , I miss my friends , I miss my old life, every day I wake up knowing this is how I will be forever."

James had been testing a bicycle for his mother when he was targeted near his home and after being repeatedly stabbed, he called out for his mum before collapsing.

He effectively died for nearly an hour before being brought back to life by medics.

The 16-year-old then spent 174 days in hospital before being allowed home where he continues to work on his recovery, achieving 100 sit-ups in his wheelchair.

James Bascoe-Smith spent 174 days in hospital Credit: Met Police

James’ family spoke of their determination to help prevent more innocent victims of knife crime.

His mother Lisa Bascoe-Smith, said: “James did not have any issues with anybody in the area. He is a happy boy, always smiling."

James’s aunt, Rachel Duncan, said: “James is a victim of a broken society. Our community needs healing, care, and hope we can overcome this evil that has plagued the community.

“We cannot give up on our youth. We have to learn to forgive.

“We truly need to end this cycle of violence that can often become generational. We need to eradicate knife violence on our streets.”

Prosecutor Edward Brown KC said: “It is extraordinary he is here to tell the tale.”

The court heard the defendants both had previous convictions for carrying knives.

A selection of “terrifying” knives were discarded by the fleeing attackers included a combat knife, a rambo-style blade and a zombie-style machete.

Sentencing, Judge Ian Bourne KC said: “No-one can fail to be deeply moved by the devastating effect the life changing and tragic events of 23 February 2021 has had, not just for James Bascoe-Smith but his family, friends and the wider community.”

The court was told 12 “high harm” gangs had been identified in Southwark and Lambeth with knife crime returning to pre-pandemic levels in the area.

Detective Superintendent Neerav Patel Credit: PA

Detective Superintendent Neerav Patel said: “James was declared clinically dead for fifty minutes after this attack which saw him run down and stabbed by cowards. He was completely innocent, just out riding his bicycle when he was mistaken for a rival in a senseless dispute between opposing gangs.

“Passers-by offered immediate assistance, and paramedics refused to give up on James, miraculously restarting his heart. With a five per cent chance of survival it is nothing short of a miracle that James is with us today. The best medical treatment from the NHS and the unrelenting love of his family saved his life.

“James really is an inspiration to us all, a beacon of light against evil and cowardice.

“As we have seen during this trial, my officers and our colleagues from the CPS have worked day and night to achieve this outcome. I would like to thank all those involved for their dedication and professionalism.

"I would also pay tribute to a member of public who was first on scene, called police and stayed with James awaiting the arrival of emergency services. Her testimony proved vital in the case.

“I would also like to commend James and his family for their patience and support, and join the rest of the community in wishing James a healthy road to recovery.

“Finally I want to issue a warning to those who engage in violence on our streets – we will never stop pursuing you to ensure you are brought to justice for your crimes.”

  • CCTV footage shared by Met Police concerning the attack and vehicles associated with the incident

Detective Constable Megan Sharp said: “This has been a complex and challenging investigation, made easier by the hard work and tireless efforts of the hundreds of officers and staff involved.

"The team and I are grateful we achieved some justice for James and his family – who showed such courage, patience and resilience throughout - and are pleased he is now able to focus on his recovery.”

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