Convicted murderer tells Petchey Academy pupils why they should make better life choices than him
PUBLISHED: 12:22 05 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:29 05 March 2020
Petchey Academy pupils got to find out what it feels like to be sentenced to 15 years in prison when a convicted murderer came to tell them why it’s important to make the right choices in life.
The father of two, known only as "Michael", is still serving his sentence but was allowed out of jail on day release to discuss the circumstances surrounding his crime and the impact that going to prison has had on his life and his family.
He was joined by a 25-year-old ex-offender from Dalston called "Amy" who is now on probation after serving a five-year sentence for GBH.
Students at the school in Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, also learned about the harsh realities of knife crime, county lines, arson and prison life - and even got to step inside a prison cell - over the course of two days of candid workshops run by volunteers from the charity Prison! Me! No Way!
The charity tries to make young people think carefully about the decisions they make to reduce crime, reoffending and anti-social behaviour.
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Michael described how his father's absence meant he was brought up single-handedly by his mother who struggled to cope financially leading to "debt collectors knocking on the door". He got involved in a gang because of the attraction of wanting to belong and to make quick money by selling drugs.
"It was impactful, and a desperately sad story of growing up in poverty without a father figure," said a spokesperson from the school.
"The young people were in awe in all honesty because it was so real, and it really hit home to them how one thing can lead to another and although you think, 'Gosh I'd never do that', if you make the wrong choices then things can spiral out of control."
"He also looked so young, and he'd spent most of his adult life in prison. He was saying iPhones weren't around when he was sentenced and everyone was using Blackberry messenger, and it's a different world now. He has two children who he's spent very little time with, and that shocked the students."
Patrons of the charity, the actor Stephen Hagan, and his wife, comedian Wendy Wason, joined the students for the day, stepping inside the prison cell themselves and having a school lunch.
The Petchey Academy also hosted a parents' information meeting on county lines with the Met's safer schools team.