A number of reports like this one have appeared in the press today.  The stories tell of a teenager apparently out of control, going on some sort of violent rampage, who allegedly (he hasn’t been convicted of anything yet) attacked a Range Rover car with a baseball bat.

The boy (he is 17) has now been excluded from his community by order of the Court.

The boy apparently said “Nobody will give me a death threat…”, before lashing out at the car.  Put that together with the owner of a Range Rover who doesn’t report the damage to his (rather expensive) car, and a different picture starts to emerge.  One of a troubled and vulnerable young man living in fear of his life, and a suspicious failure on the part of the car’s owner to report expensive criminal damage to the police.

There are dozens of cases like this every year. Often the police are the ones to deliver threats to their victims – handing over a leaflet and walking away again. Social services (despite the boy’s young age) offer an inadequate response.  The Court enables the group making the threat by removing the boy from his own community – potentially creating an even less stable environment for him and leaving those issuing threats to carry on.

This is not a criminal issue.  It is a child protection one.  The State is failing this young person (and others like him) over and over again.  Despite the Judge clearing the Court during the hearing, this story is all over the media, putting a vulnerable youth even more at risk.  Irresponsible journalism compounding the inadequacies of the State response.

This is a problem that was allowed to continue, when this practice should have ended with paramilitary ceasefires 24 years ago. Local politicians have turned a blind eye to it – or issued cursory condemnations.  They have not produced a strategy that deals with it – nor have they held those supporting this violence to account.  In the absence of a local Executive, the responsibility for this issue rests with the Secretary of State – who appears too timid to tackle this or any other issue that might involve using Executive powers – though to be fair to her, this is an issue that should have been and must be tackled by local politicians working with communities.  In the political vacuum, criminal bully-boys hold the communities in which they operate to ransom – hidden behind the veneer of a political cause.

The State (in the form of the Justice and Social Services systems) tries to manage the problem – but does so in ways which it could be argued enable the organisations that are issuing the threats and exclusions and carrying out the attacks.

The Fresh Start Strategy offers some hope that this issue will be addressed systemically and comprehensively – but its deliver is at present painfully slow and disjointed. In the meantime, a boy waits in terror for the threats against him to be carried out – with only local youth workers who feel as helpless as him to prevent this.  Can you imagine the fear and sense of abandonment he is experiencing? In 2018 is this really the best we can offer him?


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