Shelagh Fogarty is Leading Britain's Conversation.
4 July 2017, 12:06
Tearful Former Gang Member Tells James About Struggles
This former gang member became tearful while speaking to James O'Brien, after offering a heartbreakingly bleak point of view to gang warfare not often seen.
Lee from London phoned James O'Brien during a discussion about gangs, after it emerged in a report that nearly 50,000 children in England are part of one.
The former gang member managed to leave a life of crime to get work as a courier, but he became tearful while speaking to James O'Brien about his difficult journey.
Lee said: "As I get older now I kind of understand how wrong it was. When you're young, you're just in the moment kind of, you know."
James spoke to Lee about the people he knew who didn't go down the same route, avoiding gang membership, and what the difference was between them and him.
He said: "They were more clever kids. They were able to work out. We was kind of like followers, if you know what I mean.
"Whereas they weren't followers. They were more, they were, they knew what they wanted."
The caller then began to get tearful. He added: "Not every kid, you know when you're young, people don't even know at 35 what they want to do, let alone at 16.
"At 16 you still don't know what you want to do, so you just follow the gang down that road."
James asked: "Because it's the path of least resistance? It's just the flow, everyone else is flowing in that direction?"
Lee replied: "For you to come out of your front door, you've got to go past all these people, so if you're not with them, you're going to get beatings every day."
James said: "Just for refusing not to join in? And when I say join in, I don't just mean refusing to stand with them on the same street corner, you'd have to go with them to rob the arcade at closing time?"
Lee answered: "Yeah, even if you're standing there and you don't touch the person, you don't give the person a wallop, you're still with them, you're still a number.
"To the opposing person, if you've got ten up that direction, you're still an extra number, there's still going to be fear, you're an extra number, I'm nothing."
Former Gang Member Lee's Interview In Full
The pair went onto discuss what Lee is doing now.
Lee told James he's currently couriering on a motorbike, but he's barely getting by on the money he is earning.
The caller once again became emotional, telling James: "I'm doing a little bit of couriering and delivering and keeping myself alive, yeah, right? Because I ain't got the cleverness for all these jobs you know, because I went down the wrong path."
He added: "Can you imagine I got out there, I'm busting myself doing the seven/eight hours to just get this parcel to the person. I'm making my money, but I'm making it the proper way now.
"And then, it brings me to tears, it really does, and then, you know, like, sorry man--"
James told him: "Take your time, you've got all the time you need, I promise...What you're telling is you're trying to play by the rules, you're trying to do your best, and then if something flies into your world like a parking ticket or a speeding fine, whatever it may be, takes such a big chunk out of your income, that it makes you wonder why you're bothering-"
Lee interjected: "What am I doing it for? I was better the other way, wasn't I?"
"No you weren't," said James.
James added: "I've never heard this before, I'm going to level with you, the idea that you're doing the right thing, but no one really understands how hard it is to do the right thing, because you could take just one step back in life, and you'd have a few hundred clear at the end of every week."
Lee said: "The right feels like the wrong and the wrong feels like the right these days, man, you know?"
James replied: "I do. I do now, I didn't before."
The caller once again became emotional.