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Youth Crime: the Circle Club debate

Phil Hamer joins the panel as Manchester Confidential begins sponsoring the Circle Club debates

Published on October 26th 2007.

Youth Crime: the Circle Club debate

Perhaps it’s the bland politically correct nature of so many discussions these days especially on TV but the series of fortnightly debates at the Circle Club, now sponsored by Manchester Confidential, which have been running for almost a year have proved to be a tremendous success.

I have attended several of them and participated sometimes eccentrically enough to be dubbed “the articulate heckler”. So when I found myself on the panel for The Youth Crime Debate it was very much the case of the poacher achieving gamekeeper status.

Howard Sharrock, the Confidential chairman, skilfully ring-mastered the diverse panel. He began by reminding us that Manchester has historically always been a city with its fair share of pockets of lawlessness. “Was the current topicality of youth crime just something created by the Daily Mail?” he posed.

Police and teachers are no longer the people in the community that young people looked up to. They had been replaced by security firm owners and boxing gym proprietors. A complete nobody without a gun was a somebody with one.

He invited Wythenshawe Councillor Sue Murphy to explain how the town hall was tackling youth crime. She admitted that the council’s distinction of being the biggest issuer of Anti Social Behaviour Orders in Britain was not a title she was happy with though less have been issued recently. She applauded those strong enough especially on the tough estates to take on the thugs and admitted that it was with the example of such people that the future lay and that they deserved Council support.

Assistant Chief Constable for Crime and Professional Standards for Greater Manchester Police, Ian Seabridge, was equally honest in admitting that the police had failed to tackle the problem of young offenders who occupy more police time than any other age group. He vividly highlighted the depressing cyclical nature of offending and advocated a multi-agency approach which had not yet been tried.

It was me next. My own qualifications to talk on the subject, were that I’ve taught drama in inner-city schools intermittently for over 30 years and written about crime and reviewed crime writing. My point was media culpability in hysterical reporting of youth crime, principally shootings. The perception that youth crime is unchecked is a major problem along with the willingness of politicians to use crime as a political football. Two examples were Blair with his opportunistic response to the Bulger murder in 1992 and Cameron with his ‘broken society’ bleating in response to the recent Rhys Jones shooting.

A quietly attentive room was stilled to silence by the next speaker, Anthony Stephens, who, as a reformed gang member, admitted that he had seen friends gunned down in the city over 20 years ago. He talked eloquently about the hard core individuals who form the nucleus of a gang and said that he feared that they would spurn every initiative directed towards them no matter how attractive.

Arts based initiatives were offered by the last two panel members Martin Stannage and Borhan Mohammadi who are youth leaders at the Contact Theatre but the effectiveness of their approach came under detailed probing from Howard Sharrock and Anthony Stephens.

Audience questions and contributions were of a high standard, with Greg from Wythenshawe reminding us that police and teachers are no longer the people in the community that young people looked up to. They had been replaced by security firm owners and boxing gym proprietors. He also reminded us that a complete nobody without a gun was a somebody with one.

What do you think? Were these valid points, let us know below?

The next Circle Club debate will be Future Shorts Manchester on Tues 30 Oct at 6.30pm. This will be an evening of debate and short film screenings. The debate will focus on the future of short film with media professionals from the fields of education, production, distribution and exhibition invited to participate and share their knowledge and experience. The event is free: reserve your place, or reserve a table for the supper time specials at rsvp@thecircuitseries.comCircle Club, Barton Arcade. Tues 30 Oct at 6.30pm.

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GordoOctober 26th 2007.

When was that Mrs Trellis?

Mrs.TrellisOctober 26th 2007.

ironic that a friend of mine was glassed and may be blinded in one eye in the circle club....

Mrs.TrellisOctober 26th 2007.

a couple of weeks ago. just seen him now and he is having surgery next week to try and save his sight in one eye. depressing isn't it?

Mr ChapmanOctober 26th 2007.

ironic indeed, in my incident I was backed into a corner and told i'd be stabbed for apparently disrespecting someone whom i'd never met before!..."pot calling kettle black"

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