Northants school children warned against gang culture by Stephen Lawrence's brother
The brother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered as a teenager in 1993, has delivered a strong message to children about violent behaviour and gang affiliation.
In 1993, 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in an unprovoked racist attack by a gang of white youths as he waited at a bus stop in south-east London.
On Friday his brother Stuart stood up and told a group of 30 school children about the impact his brother's death has had on him personally and said "each day is precious."
He was speaking as part of an event produced by CIRV, The Community Initiative to Reduce Violence.
This pioneering scheme has been operating successfully in the county since February 2019 and is designed to reduce gang violence by working with young people to show them the consequences of violent crime - while showing them an alternative pathway through mentoring, support, job opportunities and other change programs.
Not every young person who was invited to the event is involved with gangs but there were some in the audience who were familiar with them.
Stuart Lawrence said he struggles to play video games and watch accident and emergency programmes on television because they are too upsetting after his brother was killed.
He said: "The sense of loss I feel every day when I wake up is something that I will never get away from.
"Before I go to sleep every night I say thank you for the day I have just had, I turn to reflect on the day I have just had and the things I've done well and what I have not done well.
"I ask the Lord to protect my family. I always ask if I can have another day because tomorrow is not promised to no one.
"My main message is each day is precious, it's not a given, you really have to grasp each day and you have to make the best of it."
Dr Ghazzili Ahmed who is a surgeon at Northampton General Hospital's Accident and Emergency Department said knife crime incidents in Northampton have increased by 78 per cent in the last five years alone.
He said: "What I am trying to tell these young people is that it doesn’t need to be a fatal stabbing - the ultimate consequence is death, you get stabbed and you don’t make it. That’s devestating for everyone.
"But you could have tendon injuries, ligament injuries, or a disability trying to defend yourself.
"Even though you escaped death you could have a significant injury as a result of that, that could change your life. You could lose a digit, a finger, or a limb."
The youngest patient Dr Ahmed has treated at Northampton General Hospital who has suffered a laceration or a cut caused by a sharp object is under 17.
Stuart Lawrence and Dr Ahmed were among a diverse range of speakers who shared often very personal and painful stories about how they had been directly affected by gangs, drugs, weapons and violence, describing the misery they can cause.
Jeff Gonsalves, a community leader from Wellingborough, was another, who spoke on behalf of his community. He said: "What are we doing for these young people?
"What are we doing for them? We can't keep moving them along, we need to give them something to be part of.
"I have got older people saying they don't want to approach a gang of youths, they feel the fear but what is the solution?"
Police and Fire Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold and his team, supported by Northamptonshire Police, tendered a bid to the Home Office Serious Youth Violence Early Intervention Fund and were awarded £627,000 to support the CIRV programme.
The event at County Hall on Friday comes just days after the Chronicle & Echo's front page which featured an incident involving a 15-year-old boy shooting a 16-year-old boy in Thorplands.