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Pressure at home from older siblings is driving recruitment, Blair warns.

Thursday May 3, 2007


Britain's most senior police officer wants children who face pressure from within their own families to join gangs to be placed on the child protection register.

Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, believes there needs to be a radical overhaul of the way society tackles the growing problem of teenage violence, which will spread from the inner cities to rural towns and villages.

Peer pressure from brothers and sisters is regarded by police chiefs as one of the key drivers for gang recruitment as children are drawn into criminal activity. Using a child protection approach would mean that in the most extreme cases children who were at risk of joining teenage gangs could be taken into care for their own safety.

The Met chief says policing alone will not make a lasting impact on the threat of gang violence, which is as serious as that of terrorism in terms of the deaths and injuries caused. His words reflect the increasing concerns of senior police officers across the country following a series of fatal shootings involving teenagers. The latest led to the death of 12-year-old Kamilah Peniston in Manchester.

Sir Ian believes society must treat children in the families of gang members as if they are at risk, in the same way that children whose parents are violent and abusive towards them are considered under threat and taken on to the child protection register.

"The solution to the problems of youth violence go far wider than policing," he told the Guardian. "There is a need to think outside the box. While the response of the Metropolitan police and other forces will be extremely robust around youth violence when it is committed, we should also be thinking about how to stop children drifting into these gangs.

"One of the ideas I have asked to be explored is that where an older sibling is clearly involved in gang activity the right way forward is that there should be a child protection approach for any younger sibling who is clearly at risk of moving into a lifestyle which is extremely dangerous to that child."

Police in Manchester are investigating whether Kamilah's 16-year-old brother accidentally shot his sister. Detectives will be inquiring into his background to establish whether he was a gang member and how he came to have the weapon.

Sir Ian's comments come as the Met publishes an analysis of gangs in London which reveals that young refugees from war-torn countries are increasingly getting involved in teenage violence.

"There is an increase in young people with significant post-traumatic stress resulting from witnessing and being involved in significant violent situations prior to arrival in the UK," the report states. "These young people appear to have a disproportionate negative impact on their peer groups."

Since January there have been seven teenage murders in London related to gang violence, and younger children are becoming involved in gangs.

The report, which is being presented to the Metropolitan Police Authority today, reveals there are at least 171 gangs in the city, three of which are teenage girl gangs. It also states: "There is evidence that sisters and girlfriends of gang members are used to mind weapons."

The report identifies the need to intervene early to protect younger children from joining gangs and reveals that there is currently no provision for helping the increasing numbers of teenagers who want to extricate themselves from gang culture.

Sir Ian's comments were welcomed by those working with young people. Les Isaac, of the Ascension Trust street pastors initiative in south London, said he had been calling for a more holistic approach to gang violence for a long time.

"The incident in Manchester this week highlights what we are saying. Children are living in a fantasy world, they don't realise how dangerous these things are and accidents do happen."




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Children should not be jailed, says report.

The age of criminal responsibility for British children should be raised from ten to as high as 18, a report said today.

The document from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) also suggested children should no longer be sent to prison.

It features a collection of essays from academics and campaigners who claim there is an urgent need to review the approach to "children in trouble" and said the British age of criminal responsibility was much lower than in countries such as Germany (14), Canada (12) and Russia (15).

The age at which children can be prosecuted should be raised to 14, 16 or even 18, the contributors said.

Rebecca Palmer, a youth worker with 20 years experience, and who works for the Children and Young People's Unit at the Greater London authority, said in her essay: "The negative perception of young people as 'hoodie-wearing yobs' should be concertedly challenged. The age of criminal responsibility should be raised to 18 and Asbos should be abolished. No child should be in prison and alternatives should be sought."

Bob Reitemeier, of the Children's Society, suggested 14 years should be the minimum, and criminologist professors Barry Goldson, of Liverpool University, and John Muncie, of the Open University, wrote: "We submit that serious consideration should be given to raising the age of criminal responsibility to 16 or even 18."

The CCJS, which is based at King's College, London, said England and Wales had one of the highest child imprisonment rates in Europe. Will McMahon, one of the report's editors, said the number of under 18s currently in custody was 3,000, an increase of 20 per cent in ten years, and said it was four times more than France, ten times more than Spain and 100 times more than Finland.

The report suggested moving responsibility for youth justice from the Home Office to the Department for Education and Skills and that serious crimes committed by children should be punished by a "residential training order" of up to five years. Mr McMahon said this could include a residential school, an adolescent mental health unit or foster care.

CCJS's deputy director, Enver Solomon, said: "We are publishing this because we believe the current age of criminal responsibility is too low and there needs to be an urgent rethink. All options need to be under consideration, and we want to start a debate about what the new age should be. We think the new Ministry of Justice should make it a priority to look again at the age of criminal responsibility."

The joint editor of the report, the CCJS's Zoe Davies, said: "It is striking that the government remains committed to the criminalisation of children and young people as a mainstream policy response. This is despite all the evidence that the youth justice system is damaging to the majority of those young people who come into contact with it."

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "There are no current plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales. We are concerned about 10 and 11-year-olds becoming drawn into offending behaviour, and criminal responsibility from the age of 10 allows us to intervene early to prevent further offending and to help young people develop a sense of personal responsibility for their misbehaviour. The early teenage years are an important, high risk period when timely intervention can make a real difference."


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Reply with quote  #78 
Excellent post A2, very interesting, should be 21 I think, in certain situations of course, if it is proven that a human being has, beyound doubt committed repeated indecent  acts against a kid, they should get tortured to death if they are old enough to reproduce. If its theft or assault or whatever, I think that councilling by victims would be a great idea. 

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Reply with quote  #79 

Its most definitely worth a try


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22 May 2007
MAW, I THINK I'VE MURDERED SOMEONE.
 
 
Teenager tells of his doorstep confession after he stabbed a gang rival, leaving him fighting for his life.

MARTIN LANG recoils as he remembers the confession he made on his mother's doorstep.

Shaking, he told her: "Maw, I think I murdered someone."

It was the first time the enormity of his actions had sunk in.

He was only 16 when, in a fit of rage, he stabbed another teenager.

It was March 18, 2005, and he had been drinking on a street corner with a group of friends in Penilee, Glasgow.

As they walked to a chip shop, they came across a fight between boys from Penilee and a rival scheme.

Martin and his pals recognised some of the Penilee boys as friends and decided to lend a hand.

As they ran to the fight, one of his pals handed him a four-inch lock knife.

Martin claims his victim attacked a friend who has artificial legs and then rounded on his best pal's girlfriend.

Martin said: "The boy ran at me with a broken bottle and I stabbed him.

"I acted before I thought. I was angry because he was picking on people who couldn't defend themselves.

"As it was happening, I blacked it out.

I didn't really know what was happening until I saw the boy on the ground."

He doesn't know how many times he stabbed his victim but he now thinks the knife hit its target three out of the nine times he thrust it.

Martin said: "I thought I had got him as many times as I swung the knife so when I saw him on the ground I thought, that's him, I've killed him."

He ran, throwing the blade to the ground, fuelled by fear and adrenaline.

When he arrived, frightened and breathless, at his mother's, he told her he was sure his victim was dead.

Martin said: "It was terrifying actually saying that to someone. It made it real and that's when it really sunk in."

When the police arrived to quiz him about the seriously injured victim, he confessed immediately.

He said: "I didn't want the guy to go in to court and have to point me out. I felt guilty for what I had done."

Martin had pierced his victim's lung and bowel.

He said: "If I hadn't been handed the knife, I wouldn't have stabbed him. It would just have been a fight."

Haunted by regret, he refused to apply for bail and claims that he felt it was right to accept the punishment he deserved.

When he was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow, Martin told the judge: "I was handed a knife and I had a choice to drop it, to give it back or use it. I used it, so I am guilty as charged."

Martin was sentenced to three years and served 18 months at Polmont Young Offenders'Institution.

For months, sleep would bring flashbacks of the night and he was haunted by the image of his victim lying in a pool of blood on the ground.

Martin now supports a clampdown on knives.

He said: "Whether it's stabbing someone, slashing them or ripping a tyre, you are going to use that knife.

"You can hide knives and do more damage with them, that's why they carry them. Men in Glasgow just want to prove they are bigger and harder than everyone else.

"It's out of hand but I don't ever see it changing."

Now he is 18 and has returned to his job as a motorbike technician and is settled with his girlfriend.

But he is aware the gang his victim belonged to have been hungry for revenge since his release this month.

PHOTOGRAPHER David Gillanders first met Peter, above, just after he had been rushed to hospital following a knife attack.

Peter had been stabbed in the face, back and chest, beaten with a crowbar and his lung had collapsed.

He was admitted to the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow and claimed he didn't know who attacked him.

As he lay covered in blood, his pregnant girlfriend kept a vigil by his bedside.

The same afternoon, David watched the hardman turn into a doting dad, playing on the floor with his son.


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Teachers want body armour to carry out gun searches...

Teachers are demanding to be equipped with stab and bullet-proof vests to protect them from being attacked as they frisk pupils for knives and guns.

Laws coming into effect next week allow staff to conduct forcible searches of students suspected of carrying weapons.

But teachers are saying they should not be made to carry out searches unless they are provided with body armour.

More than 220 staff were seriously injured in pupil attacks last year, a rise of 21 per cent since 2002.

kevlar body armour

Have we really reached the point of our teachers wearing armour?

"In the staffroom of Sunny Haven primary school, where staff are sitting down having a cup of tea, this idea would probably make them laugh," said David Brierley, solicitor for the Professional Association of Teachers.

"But in other schools there may be enormous relief at the idea.

"On the list of possible control measures for schools, we think protective jackets should be on the list."

Mr Brierley said heads should consider buying several of the vests, which typically cost a few hundred pounds.

The union is calling on ministers to include a requirement to supply body armour in guidance on exercising the new powers, which is due to be published shortly. It is expected to say staff should receive training, costing around £50 per teacher, in how to 'pat down' clothing and check pockets for knives, blades and other weapons.

Under the Violent Crime Reduction Act, heads will not need parental consent to search pupils and can authorise other members of staff to exercise the powers.

Teachers will be able to frisk any pupil merely on the suspicion they are armed.

Reasonable grounds to initiate searches include suspicions they are members of a gang which habitually carries weapons and 'wears a distinctive item of clothing or other means of identification.

Meanwhile, airport-style screening using scanning wands or bleeping arches can be used on pupils at random, even if staff harbour no specific suspicions.

The powers are being introduced at a time of mounting public anxiety over shootings and stabbings of children.

Luke Walmsley was stabbed to death at school in Lincolnshire in 2003 while Kiyan Prince was knifed yards from his school gates in North London last year.

A recent wave of knife and gun crime involving teenagers in London has intensified concern.

Last year, a mother sent her 16-year-old son to school in East London in a stab-proof vest because he feared for his safety.

The shopkeeper who sold the teenager the vest said he was selling three a week to children. Jan Myles, assistant secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This is a high-risk strategy which could have dangerous or fatal consequences." "Schools Minister Lord Adonis said incidents involving knives were rare but the Government wanted a zerotolerance approach.

"That's why we are giving head teachers these tough new powers to search for weapons," he said.

"We think parents will welcome the clear message that bringing a knife into schools will not be tolerated."


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TEENAGERS who carry replica guns risk being shot by police marksmen amid an alarming increase in armed response unit call outs.

And parents were last night also urged to make their children aware of the dangers posed by air rifles and BB guns before someone is killed.

Last year, Strathclyde Police firearms officers were called out to 205 incidents involving imitation weapons and airguns.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Learmonth said he was alarmed by the numbers of young people who believed it was cool to brandish a weapon.

Mr Learmonth said: "Our message is serious - it could be your child who ends up being challenged by armed officers and we do not want an incident to end in tragedy.

"The law now says that anyone in possession, in a public place, of a firearm, or anything which has the appearance of a firearm, may be guilty of an offence.

"We are determined, through enforcement and education, to combat the problem and get these guns out of circulation."

Last August, two 14-year-old boys sparked a major police operation when they were spotted leaving an Asda store in Bearsden, near Glasgow, carrying a replica gun.

And former Glasgow MSP Tommy Sheridan has estimated 500,000 air weapons are in circulation in Scotland.

Mr Learmonth added: "Weapons, such as airguns, can be seen as harmless, but they can kill.

"I would urge parents to take responsibility to ensure their child is not carrying a weapon.

"If your child already owns a BB or replica gun, make sure they are aware of the law regarding their use and the risks and consequences of using them."

Detective Superintendent Willie Prendergast, a member of a leading police firearms group, said officers have to make split-second decisions when dealing with suspects.

He added: "Even at close quarters it is almost impossible to say what is a real gun and what is an imitation.

"My message is that if it looks like a gun, have nothing to do with it and don't carry it in your possession."


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HUNDREDS of retired police officers are to be recruited by the Scottish Executive to prevent young people from turning to a life of crime...
 
Around 2000 officers are due to retire over the next four years and the Executive wants them to act as role models for the next generation.

It’s hoped the officers will educate teenagers about the dangers of being lured into a lifestyle that revolves around offending.

Already some retired police officers and prison officers are used to varying degrees around the country in this capacity.

But Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has asked officials to explore the possibility of expanding this link-up.

The more traditional fields of employment for ex-police officers, such as working as court officers, have dried up over recent years and he believes there is a void to be filled.

Opportunities...


It’s also hoped that more opportunities will open up in the wake of the forthcoming review of sentences, and as more people are dealt with through community-based punishments.

Mr MacAskill said he highly valued the contribution former police officers and prison officers make in working with offenders.

“I firmly believe there is an even greater role for them to play,” he added. “I want to see more of them supervising offenders on community service orders or supervised attendance orders.

“Others can bring their skills and experience to the field, working through voluntary organisations. This is something we’re keen to support and encourage.

“Offenders in the community can benefit from working with and being supervised by people with a wide range of experiences, but police and prison officers are uniquely placed to provide their experience of how offending behaviour can affect communities and individuals.”

Review...


Mr MacAskill explained that as the Scottish Executive moved forward with their review of community sentencing they will be looking at how they can make more use of reparation, and better rehabilitate offenders in the community.

“There is no question that over the next few years, we are going to have an abundance of qualified and inspirational role models retiring from the front line,” he pointed out. “They can help instil a culture of responsibility among the next generation.

“We need to show young people there is a more rewarding alternative to a life of crime, and motivate them to fulfil their potential.

“We are committed to targeting the root causes of repeat offending and low-level crime which blights communities up and down the country.

“A more high-profile police presence will begin to address this and we will deliver the equivalent of an extra 1000 officers into our communities. But even if officers are no longer wearing the uniform, they can still play their part.”

Police officer recruitment surged in 1945, at the end of World War 2 and these officers mostly retired after 30 years service in 1975.

That resulted in a large intake around that time, with many of them due to retire in 2005.

However, police pay rose significantly in 1978 and 1979, resulting in a further surge in recruitment. These officers are due to retire in 2008 and 2009, with more than 2000 serving officers due to go over the next four years.


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Pupils learn life lessons...
 

MORE than 27,000 primary pupils are packing out the SECC this week for lessons in coping with the transition to secondary school from pop stars including the MacDonald Brothers.

Children in P7 are being bussed in over three days this week the learn the dangers of drugs, alcohol and smoking at the Choices for Life event.

Now in its eighth year, it aims to teach kids about the important life choices they face at secondary school, it's hoped important messages will get through.

Bel's Boys, Natalie James, Lil' Chris from TV show Rock School, and Pacific Avenue are also taking part in the event run by the police.

A choir from St Andrew's Academy in Paisley were among the stars of the show yesterday with their song Choices, penned by top Scottish songwriter John McLaughlin who wrote No1 hits for Busted and Westlife.

Assistant Chief Constable John Neilson said: "Choices for Life is delivered in a fun and exciting way which appeals to 11-year-olds but also allows a very important message to be passed on to them. Young people must get the information necessary to make the right choices for their future."


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A support service for youngsters with emotional and behavioural problems has opened a new flagship centre in Stranraer.

The £1.4m development in the town's Thistle Street will act as a base for Aberlour's Crannog service.

It will also provide space for other agencies offering help to young people who are having difficulties at school.

Aberlour assistant regional director Steve McCreadie said it was a "massive development" for the area.


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Child poverty plight highlighted...
 
Child in play park
Save the Children said politicians need to do more...
A charity has called for more action on tackling child poverty after a report said Glasgow has some of the highest rates in the UK.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said its research found that about 60% of children were living below the bread line in some parts of the city.

That equated to almost three times the national average of 21%.

Save the children said MSPs and the Scottish Executive must do more to assist community projects.

The foundation said its figures related to the percentage of children in families which had been receiving unemployment benefits.

Glasgow may have some of the worst statistics, but our whole society is suffering because of poverty
Douglas Hamilton
Save the Children...

The Parkhead area of Glasgow had the fourth highest level in the UK, at 63.4%, with the Bridgeton, Ibrox and Royston wards also above 60%.

Researchers found that there were 83 local wards across Scotland where the percentage of children on benefits was at least double the national average.

Thirty seven of these were in Glasgow, four in Aberdeen and five each in Dundee and Edinburgh.

Douglas Hamilton, head of policy and research at Save the Children, highlighted the work of one charity in helping to ease the problem in Glasgow, but said politicians must provide more support for such groups.

Mr Hamilton said Save the Children's Yes (Young East End Speaking) project was an example to be proud of.

'Take responsibility':

He said: "Projects such as Yes have been incredibly successful in combating issues associated with poverty, but more support is needed, especially from MSPs and the Scottish Executive.

Mr Hamilton added: "Local community groups work continuously to tackle this issue and the problems associated with it and we hope more support will be given to these organisations.

"If we are going to end child poverty in Scotland, action needs to be taken at local and national levels. We all have to take responsibility.

"Glasgow may have some of the worst statistics, but our whole society is suffering because of poverty."

During First Minister's Questions at Holyrood, Scottish National Party MSP Alex Neil said more than half of Scotland's children were living in "dire poverty" after 300 years of union with England.

However, Jack McConnell said Scotland was leading the way in tackling child poverty in the UK, with hundreds of thousands of children's lives changed under Labour in Scotland.

Glasgow Solidarity MSP Tommy Sheridan said: "After 10 years of hard Labour in London and Edinburgh these are statistics of shame, more than half the children in my region are living in poverty."


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How to raise teenagers by the book, an owner's guide...

For almost 50 years, oil-stained, dog-eared Haynes car maintenance manuals have kept many a dodgy old Cortina or Escort on the road. Now the good people of Haynes have an even trickier subject - the temperamental teenager.

Haynes' Teenager Manual is a step-by-step "owner's guide" that gives practical tips to help coax your troublesome teen through those awkward years.

The guide paints a picture of a contented, obliging child morphing into a sulky, monosyllabic teenager. It takes the reader through physical development and common teenage emotions - mood swings, loss of confidence and motivation, anger, jealousy and apprehension.There are also sections on friends and social life, health and diet, coaching tips on skills such as learning how to argue without falling out, and advice on subjects including underage smoking and binge drinking.

The author of the book, Pat Spungin, the founder of the website Raising Kids, said she hoped the book would particularly appeal to men familiar with the Haynes car guides. "I think most books on this subject are focused on women. I think there is a place for a book focused on men," said Dr Spungin.

So rather than being full of woolly theory, the Teenager Manual is what Dr Spungin calls a "fix-it" book. "The emphasis is on trying to give practical tips rather than elaborate explanations of what is going on."

For example on discipline, the guide says there can be no "naughty step" for teenagers. Be prepared to concede on points that are important to them and stick to ones important to you. On health, keep lots of fruit in the house and encourage sport to keep them healthy, which will also help tackle spots.

Since Haynes was founded in 1960 around 150m manuals have been sold around the world, and 1m were bought in the UK last year. There are 300 car manuals and 130 motorcycle manuals in print. The Cortina manual is thought to be the all-time bestseller, and Haynes says it sold more Citroën XM manuals in the UK than the number of cars bought.

But as people have started to buy new cars rather than patching up their old ones, Haynes has dabbled in other areas, producing guides on subjects such as DIY and computers. It also briefly strayed into soft furnishings.

Matthew Minter, the editorial director for the manuals in the UK, who admits that his expertise remains in cars rather than teenagers, said: "This guide is hopefully proof that looking after a teenager successfully is not rocket science - a few practical tips can go a long way to solving the mystery."


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Expulsions from secondary schools at an all-time high.

 

School

Suspension has increased by 4 per cent as schools 'get tough' on kids

Record numbers of teenagers are being sent home from school for violence, drugs and disruptive behaviour.

Secondary schools were forced to expel pupils 7,990 times last year and issue 343,840 suspensions, according to official figures just released.

There has also been a sharp rise in the number of expelled pupils who were reinstated on appeal, against heads' wishes.

More than half of successful appeals result in the pupil going back to the same school.

The Department of Education statistics showed too many schools still have problems with bad behaviour, the Tories said.

Ministers were also accused of masking the true scale of indiscipline by failing to publish figures for academy schools where exclusion rates are higher.

But the Government said academies had never been included in the figures - and the increase in suspensions reflected the hard line schools were taking on bad behaviour.

The number of suspensions - or 'fixed period exclusions' - issued by secondary schools rose last year four per cent on 2004-05. Primary school figures are unavailable.

The average suspension lasted 3.5 days but in 13,120 cases it was longer than two weeks.

Almost half of pupils - 47 per cent - were sent home for violent or aggressive behaviour such as assaulting or threatening fellow pupils or staff.

Persistent disruptive behaviour accounted for 21 per cent of suspensions, vandalism three per cent, drugs and alcohol two per cent, theft two per cent and sexual misconduct - including sexual abuse and lewd behaviour - one per cent.

The figures also showed an increase in racist abuse. Suspensions for racism rose from 2,940 in 2004-05 to 3,370 last year and permanent exclusions stayed the same at 30.

Although the numbers of permanent exclusions fell from 9,440 in primary, secondary and special schools to 9,170, the expulsion rate was the same as 2004-05, at 12 pupils per 10,000. One reason for this is falling pupil numbers.

Boys were four times more likely to be expelled than girls and pupils aged 12 to 14-year-old most likely to find themselves barred from school.

Parents are winning a higher proportion of appeals against decisions by heads to expel their children - 24 per cent last year against 21 per cent in 2004-05.

Fewer parents lodged appeals but the numbers succeeding reached a four-year high.

The proportion of successful appeals which resulted in heads being forced to take back troublemakers rose from 49 per cent to 56 per cent. In 130 cases the pupil was sent back to the same classroom - against 110 in 2004-05.

Shadow Education Secretary, David Willetts, pledged to scrap independent appeals panels which send troublemakers back to class.

He said: "How can you possibly maintain order when a child that you have expelled from your school wins an appeal and is back in your classroom?"

Tory schools spokesman Nick Gibb added: "These figures show there is still a problem with pupil behaviour in our schools."

Dr John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Heads need and deserve better support than this if they are to maintain the standards of behaviour that society expects. It is undermining schools' ability to discipline."

The Liberal Democrats criticised ministers for failing to include academies in the data.

Schools spokesman Sarah Teather said: "By leaving them out the Government will have seriously altered the overall picture of school discipline."

But Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "The rise in fixed period exclusions reflects the tough approach schools are taking to address bad behaviour. They are using the short, sharp shock of a suspension to nip problem behaviour in the bud."

A teachers' union has called for mobile phones to be classed as potentially offensive weapons and banned from schools. Pupils were using handsets to spread offensive images of staff and bully them with unwanted calls and texts, said the NASUWT.


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What my 13-year-old son looked like after he binged on a bottle of vodka.

 

He lies in hospital with an oxygen mask strapped to his face, hovering between life and death.

Jack Strom, who is just 13, is barely breathing after drinking a litre bottle of vodka in a park in the latest shocking example of Britain's growing binge-drinking epidemic among the young.

Doctors fighting to save him from alcohol poisoning and hypothermia know he will die if his body temperature drops another degree.

Jack Strom in hospital: He was minutes from death when found.

Jack's mother, Sue, took the picture as she prayed by his bed for his recovery.

Yesterday, after her prayers were answered, she decided to release the image as a terrible warning to other youngsters and their parents.

Miss Strom, a 36-year-old bank worker, said: "His face was yellow when I first arrived at hospital.

"His eyes were the worst thing - when he roused and opened them they were bloodshot and huge.

"He just couldn't focus. It was shocking and I've been a wreck ever since.

"I just cried and went into automatic pilot. Even now I can't sleep at night - I keep going into his room and checking on him. I keep thinking about the 'what ifs'."

It is not known how Jack managed to obtain the vodka, but it is believed he was with a group of older friends who bought it on his behalf.

The group got through two litre bottles of vodka between them, with Jack drinking most of a bottle on his own.

This was more than his seven-and-a-half stone, 5ft7in frame could take and he passed out in the park close to his home in Southwick, Brighton last week.

His temperature plummeted and coats were put over him until help arrived. But ambulance staff confirmed that he was 30 minutes from death when they arrived.

Jack has been shaken by his ordeal after several days in hospital, and has promised his family never to drink to excess again.

Miss Strom said: "Jack is a good son and doing well at school but I had no idea he and his friends drank spirits. But parents can't have eyes in the backs of our heads or handcuff children to their homes."

Jack's 14-year-old sister, Sophie, said: "I was so scared and angry. I'm the oldest and should have made a mistake with drink first so Jack would have learned the lesson."

Sussex police issued a warning to all teenagers and confirmed they were trying to trace and prosecute the person who purchased the drink.

They have been cracking down on underage drinking and last week a local Tesco Express store was banned from selling any alcohol for a month after being caught selling to 15 and 16 year olds.

Chief Inspector Sharon Rowe said: "This was a dreadful incident and a real wakeup call to all parents and children about the dangers. Alcohol is a poison and can and will kill."

Miss Strom's decision to publicise her son's binge-drinking is not the first time a parent has taken such action.

Last year, Arthur Claye released a picture he took on his mobile phone of his daughter Elizabeth collapsed in hospital-in a last-ditch attempt to stop her binge drinking.

Elizabeth, 26, had gone to Newcastle University in 2005 in the hope of becoming a teacher. But she spent her student loan on drink, regularly downing a bottle of vodka a day.

Figures show Britain is among the worst in Europe for teen drunkenness and alcohol abuse.

The unenviable record means some girls and boys in their late teens are being treated for cirrhosis, which normally affects adults who are decades older.

The number of under-18s seeking treatment for alcoholrelated illnesses has soared since Labour introduced 24-hour drinking.

In 2005-6, an average of two dozen were treated in hospital every day.

The rise means that since Labour came to power in 1997 the number of children and teenagers receiving treatment has increased by a third.


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I became an alcoholic at 12 - and it's my mum's fault...

 

The party was in full swing, with an assortment of children gazing at the birthday girl as she blew out her candles. No one noticed an angelic-faced 12-year-old sneak off to a corner of the room, pick up a glass of sherry poured for an elderly aunt, and knock it back with one swift gulp.

No half measures: Hazel as she was as a child...

Smiling at the familiar taste, young Hazel Maguire next turned her attention to the drinks cabinet in the empty dining room - deftly pouring herself one sherry after another. Finally, she carefully topped up the half-empty bottle from a water decanter so her drinking would remain a secret.

It was the kind of surreptitious act one might expect from a seasoned alcoholic. Yet this auburn-haired schoolgirl with a glowing school report and dreams of becoming a vet was already addicted to alcohol.

Ten years on, she freely admits that she is still in its grip. Now 22 and an estate agent, Hazel recalls drinking herself almost into a stupor as a child at her cousin's birthday party. She says: "It didn't take long for the alcohol to take effect. As the party wore on, I began to feel more and more tipsy, and by the time it came to kiss my aunt goodbye the room was spinning - I still can't believe no one noticed.

"Mum and Dad would never have dreamed that their precious little girl had spent the whole party knocking back sherry. When I got home, I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other as I staggered up to bed. The next day, I had a bit of a sore head, but it seemed well worth it considering the fun I'd had the night before."

Hazel's story was given added resonance this week after the reported story of Jack Strom, 13, from Brighton, whose mother released a picture of him lying unconscious in hospital following a life-threatening drink binge.

His story came in the wake of new figures which showed Britain is now among the worst in Europe for teen drunkenness and alcohol abuse. In 2005-6, an average of two dozen teenagers were treated in hospital every day.

One of the most disturbing elements of this modern epidemic is that so many of these youngsters come from good homes. Jack Strom's mother, for example, is a bank worker, while Hazel Maguire was an adored only child whose father, now 54, was a graphic designer, and her mother, 55, a stay-at-home mum. At her state school in Bromley, Kent, she excelled.

Ironically, it was her parents' fear that Hazel would start binge drinking like other teenagers that led to her spiral of bitterness and despair.

Like so many other parents, they decided to gently introduce their daughter to small tastes of wine at the age of 12, so she would learn to "respect" alcohol.

Hazel says: "I'll never forget my first sip of wine. It was October 1997, and I was 12. I saw my dad drinking chardonnay, and I asked if I could try some. To my astonishment, he asked if I wanted a glass, and I tried it. I loved the taste, the feeling of confidence and the way I felt so grown up.

"On the Monday morning, I raced in to tell my friends at school and it made me the coolest girl in my class. No one else had even tasted wine, and I had enjoyed a whole glass as I sat with my parents.

"They believed that if they allowed me, their only child, to have a glass of wine or a shandy under their supervision it would encourage me to have a healthy attitude towards drinking, like them - they were social drinkers only.

But the plan was to backfire in the most disastrous fashion. "Now, after battling an addiction to alcohol that has ruled my life for a decade and shattered my confidence, I think it was completely wrong of them to introduce me to booze at that age.

"While I can understand the logic behind their thinking, I hold them partly responsible for my alcoholism.

"After that first glass of white wine, I was allowed similar quantities at the weekends, over dinner when my parents were drinking, and at family parties. I liked the effects just one glass had on me. It was a nice, warm, floaty feeling that made me relaxed and everything around me seem more fun.

"But, when that wore off I always wanted more. If my parents wouldn't give me a refill, I'd wait until they weren't looking and top it up myself.

"This behaviour continued and by the time I was 13, I was sneaking a can of beer or a glass of whisky from my parents' drinks cabinet most days. I usually did it after dinner and then stayed in my room for the rest of the evening.

"I remember lying on my bed feeling so contented in my drunken state and I didn't feel guilty at all. After all, my parents were perfectly happy to let me have a glass of wine on a Saturday night - why was drinking on a Tuesday night any different?

"By the time I was 14, I had a serious drink problem I'd managed to conceal from all the adults around me. Along with a few friends, I'd go out to pubs on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights, telling my parents I was at a friend's house.

"Not once did we get turned away from bars or nightclubs. At the time, we thought we looked so mature, but looking back it's obvious they knew we were underage - they simply didn't care.

"It makes me furious to think that they could be so irresponsible and I also hold them accountable for the habit I developed. It was also incredibly easy to get served in the local off-licence.

"By the time I was 15, I was drinking a quarter bottle of vodka - because it was the hardest to smell on my breath - nearly every day. I mainly drank in the evenings because I didn't want to get caught drunk at school.

"It's a miracle I managed to concentrate in my classes because I had such a terrible hangover most days. My hair was dull and lifeless and I was covered in spots - all the things that heavy drinking does to you.

"Like most teenagers would, my friends thought it was 'cool' that I drank so much and I felt like a rebel for doing it."

Incredibly, Hazel's parents appear not to have noticed her slide from the conscientious, fresh-faced daughter who beamed out from various school photographs over the years to the dulleyed, sweaty and pasty-faced teenager she had become.

Little did they know that every single penny of her £10 pocket money was going on cheap booze.

It was only in 2001 - just before Hazel's 16th birthday - that her drinking problems were suddenly and violently exposed.

She recalls: "My friend's parents were away for the weekend so she invited over 50 people to her house for a party. I was slumped in a corner all night knocking back a mixture of vodka, rum and cola.

"It was only when I tried to stand up at midnight to make my way home that the full effects of what could have been a lethal cocktail really hit me.

"My head spinning, I lost my balance and had to crawl on my hands and knees to get to the door - being sick everywhere as I went.

"All my friends seemed to think it was funny, but then they were used to seeing me in that state. When I reached the front garden, I collapsed and was found unconscious 20 minutes later by one of the neighbours, who got my friend to call my parents.

"By the time my dad arrived I'd come round and could see that he was horrified to find me in such a state. 'What have you done to yourself?' he asked in disbelief. My mum was in floods of tears as she put me to bed, and the next day the arguments began.

"My parents wanted to know how long I'd been drinking for and why I was letting myself get into such a state. All I could say was that I couldn't help it - I told them that I needed to drink.

"At first they didn't believe me, telling me not to be ridiculous, but soon, after a couple of months, they realised I had a serious problem. They wanted me to stay in and to seek help - my mum even took me to the doctor, who offered me all sorts of counselling, but I didn't want to stop.

"Even though I knew how bad alcohol was for me, I still enjoyed going out partying and loved the buzz I got from drinking. By then I was downing a bottle of wine a day and far more at weekends when I'd down shot after shot of vodka.

"After nearly six months of constant battles with my parents, I moved out when I was 16 to live with a female friend who was three years older than me.

"My parents begged me not to go, but there was nothing legally they could do and I knew I couldn't cope with the constant pressure to stop drinking.

"I was totally out of control and with hindsight I can see why they were desperate for me to get help. Unfortunately, like most alcoholics, I needed to come to that realisation on my own."

Incredibly, Hazel, had managed to pass 11 GCSEs without really studying - but by now there were few celebrations in the Maguire household.

Her parents were devastated and despairing at their daughter's behaviour. Far from going on to study A-levels and follow her dream of becoming a vet, she left school.

Hazel shrugs and shakes her head at the memory. She says: "I found a job in sales for a property company. Now it infuriates me to think what I could have done with my life had I not been addicted to alcohol. I would have got my A-levels, gone to university and become a vet.

"Work was merely a way to make money to pay for drink, but to my surprise I did enjoy my job and began to climb the ladder. It's a myth that all alcoholics drink in the morning. I have only ever drunk in the afternoon and evenings, but I am definitely still an addict. However, because of this I was able to hold down a full-time job and my boss never suspected a thing.

"In 2005 I moved to another property company as an estate agent and I still work there today. By then, I'd fallen in with a crowd who went out drinking all the time. Every weekend, I'd be downing shots at the bar in some nightclub, then stumbling home.

"Drink impairs your judgment. I've done so many stupid and dangerous things that I cringe about when I'm sober. Once I smashed a window at a party 'for a laugh'. I remember picking up a plant pot and chucking it at the glass. I'd drunk so much vodka that I really believed it was a funny thing to do.

"On other occasions I've staggered home down dark lanes on my own or caught unlicensed mini cabs alone.

"So far, I've been lucky, but I know it's only a matter of time till I get myself in a position I'm too drunk to escape from."

It is a depressing catalogue of shameful and dangerous nights out, and mornings when she has been barely able to function. But can Hazel really blame her parents for all her troubles? Many will feel her lack of willpower in battling this destructive habit is far more to blame than her parents' ill-advised attempts to educate her about alcohol.

Hazel, though, who lives in a one bedroom flat in Bromley, Kent, insists she is in the grip of a compulsion-from which she cannot escape.

"Countless times I've tried to have a night without booze, but I get terrible withdrawal symptoms. I shake all over and come out in a cold sweat.

"There is no way I could get to sleep without a drink, so I have one or else I'd be up all night and unable to go to work the following morning. It's a vicious circle.

"Five months ago, I asked my GP for help and she gave me a list of support groups and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but I haven't been able to pluck up the courage to go yet. I'm so worried that I won't be able to cope without a drink.

"I keep in touch with my parents, but I don't see them very often because I can't stand the pressure they put me under to stop drinking.

"Yes, I resent them for introducing me to alcohol at such a young age. I was too immature to know the dangers, but they should have known better."

But her mother, Anne, denies having turned her daughter into an alcoholic, despite letting her drink at such a tender age. She told the Mail: "We genuinely thought that giving Hazel a little taste of alcohol was a good thing. More often than not it was mixed with lemonade and never for a second did we think it would lead to her being the way she is now.

"Her father and I thought that if we let her have a taste of wine she would be less likely to go out and binge drink, because when it was offered to her at a party or a disco it wouldn't hold a novelty factor. We were trying to do the right thing.

"I don't believe that it was our actions that made her an alcoholic. I think she has an addictive personality and would have been this way regardless of what we did. I've thought long and hard about it, and I worried about whether or not we are to blame, but I really don't think we are.

"I know plenty of parents who acted as we did and their children have a normal, healthy attitude towards drinking.

"Of course, I still worry about her and what she is doing to her body, but she is a grown up now and must make her own decisions.

"The last time we spoke, about a week ago, she told me how much she regrets getting herself in this position and for the first time I really did believe her when she said she would try to change her ways. Maybe she is finally realising she has to - before it's too late."

Whoever is to blame, Hazel's sorry tale is becoming increasingly common, with record numbers of children as young as 12 now being treated for alcohol addiction.

The statistics don't come as any shock to the young alcoholic: "I'm not at all surprised," says Hazel. "In the UK our attitudes to booze are far too liberal.

"When I see other young women queuing up to get into clubs, I wish I could tell them not to do it to themselves. Be it binge drinking on a Friday night or knocking back a bottle of wine a night, drinking too much ruins your life."

And she should know. Hazel has now been warned by a doctor-that this deadly habit may cost her her life.

She says: "My doctor has advised me that if I don't stop drinking soon I might not make it to 30 because of the damage I am doing to my organs, particularly my liver.

"I'd like to think I'll stop in time, but I'm not sure I'll ever manage to give up, because I'm so hooked. I've gone from child alcoholic to adult addict."

Only time will tell if she goes on to become yet another depressing statistic. By then, it will be too late for her to blame her grieving parents.


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