On 22nd August, 9 young women at one of our emergency accommodation projects took part in a gang prevention workshop led by Marcia Shakespeare, whose daughter Letisha was murdered in Aston in 2003 along with her friend. They were innocent bystanders, caught in the cross fire between two rival gangs.
Marcia shared that police have identified 45 urban street gangs in Birmingham. Marcia now works with the police to raise awareness of how gangs operate and to help prevent vulnerable or isolated young women from getting involved with gangs. She runs her own Charity called the Precious Trust to help young women access qualifications to give them the financial independence and confidence that comes with a career, to move away from areas blighted by gangs or to gain independence from family members involved with them.
Simultaneously she aims to raise awareness of how the law deals with members of a gang, where all members contributing to a violent crime, regardless of their role, are given the same sentence under “joint enterprise”, and now that a life sentence means life, this is even more pertinent.
During the workshop called ‘Precious choices’, the young women were shown a video available on You Tube called ‘Who killed Deon?’. Based on a real case, it shows a scenario, where an innocent young man is encouraged to come to a party by young woman where she knows her violent boyfriend will be waiting for him. He is then stabbed to death by someone at the party. His death was avoidable because everybody involved had a choice. There are a number of related videos that then show the scenario from each of the 6 characters perspective and gradually reveal their role in the murder.
St Basils young women were then asked to discuss and write down what each character did, whether they had a choice and whether they should be charged with murder. There were different opinions on several of the characters when in fact, Marcia shared, they were all charged with murder and the same sentence of life imprisonment under ‘joint enterprise’. The only person who wasn’t charged was the young man who had tried to break up the fight and calm the situation.
The workshop also encouraged the young women to share their life ambitions. These included gaining qualifications including honours degrees and masters, one wants to be self-employed, another a music teacher and another wants to be a mid-wife. Many also expressed ambitions for a nice family life and to have caring friends. The young women were then encouraged to plan out how they would achieve these ambitions, what qualifications they needed and how they would go about doing this to develop a positive life plan.
The precious trust can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.