Former gang member says governments refusing to listen to advice has spread violence

22 August 2020, 14:31

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

A former gang member has said successive governments are partly to blame for the spread of gang violence because they refused to listen to campaigners.

Sheldon Thomas, who founded the Gangline Charity to assist young people after leaving a gang himself, said that officials often hire the "wrong people" to engage with teenagers involved in gang culture.

He told LBC's Maajid Nawaz: "The problem with some Youth Offending Teams is that they recruit the wrong set of people.

"They tend to recruit people who don't relate to these gang members."

Maajid suggested that it could be because they were "naive," highlighting the issue of gang members stealing information from the Metropolitan Police database to target their rivals.

Mr Thomas added: "We're in this mess because Government refuse dto listen ot poeple like me 20 years ago.

"I went to Jack Straw and told him about gangs in 2000 - that's how far back i can go.

"I had a meeting at the Home Office explaining to them that gang culture is going to get bigger and music is going to spread it.

"They took no notice of me because I haven't got a PhD and I'm not middle aged and white."

Sheldon Thomas says governments have refused to listen to advice on gang violence
Sheldon Thomas says governments have refused to listen to advice on gang violence. Picture: LBC/PA Images

He criticised the government for overproducing reports into gang violence but not changing their strategy to deal with it.

He also pointed the finger at the police, who he said did not represent the black people despite large communities settling in the UK since the 1940s.

"If you look at the government - they've written ten different reports - lots of reports - but nothing has achieving anything because they do the same strategy over and over again.

"They recruit the wrong set of people who can't relate to these guys on the streets, they recruit police officers who don't understand inner-city policing whatsoever.

"Can you imagine that we've been here since 1948 as black people yet we have a police force who don't understand us, and a police force that doesn't recruit as at a senior level?"