Excerpt:

Seated around a table in a small South London cafe, eight men talk quietly. They are discussing a vicious attack on a young man with a metal bar which left the victim with a shattered skull.

While other customers chat and sip tea, these men hear how the incident happened - the attack came after weeks of needling and jibes between the victim and perpetrator at a local factory where they both worked.

The victim is in hospital and lucky to be alive. The accused, who sits with the men in the cafe, is waiting to hear his fate.

There are no lawyers or policemen present and none of the majesty of the Old Bailey. But at a formica table in a Woolwich cafe, justice is being meted out with the same solemnity.

An alternative to the English judicial system is being enacted by elders of an immigrant population who are, quite literally, taking the law into their own hands.


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