A SENIOR Metropolitan police officer told a conference on gangs
on Saturday of the "desperate need for prayer" in a society
"addicted to violence".
Chief Superintendent John Sutherland, currently serving in the
borough of Southwark, told the conference "Tackling Britain's Gang
Culture", organised by the urban youth charity XLP, that domestic
violence was "the single greatest cause of harm in society", and
that the absence of good fathers was a "critical issue". The
stories of sexual exploitation of young women which he had heard
were "horrifying and terrifying in equal measure", and exposed
"what a certain proportion of young men expect, and what a certain
proportion of young women accept".
"Faith matters, and we should not be afraid to say so," he
concluded. "There is a desperate need for prayer. It may not be
fashionable to say that, but, frankly, we have not got time to be
His comments precipated loud applause from the crowd, which
included other speakers who referred to the influence of faith in
"I have to give God thanks that I am able to stand up here and
tell my story," said Jennifer Blake, who was involved in gangs
until the age of 36, and was kidnapped, tortured, and raped before
she set up Safe and Sound, a charity that works with those involved
Mario Navacroft, a 25-year-old who was raised in Mexico before
coming to England in 2004, spoke of the way he had "decided to turn
my life around and gave my life to Christ" three years ago, after
spending time in prison. "God was the only one who could strip my
pride, my arrogance . . . God is the centre of everything I do," he
The conference was chaired by Patrick Regan, the chief executive
of XLP, which he founded in 1996 after a headmaster asked him, as a
youth worker, to help the school respond to a stabbing in the
playground. The charity now works in more than 60 schools and
communities across Southwark, Lewisham, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets,
Newham, Islington, and Camden.
On Saturday, Mr Regan described how, after a "gang call-in"
hosted by a church in Islington, and addressed by a paramedic and
the mother of a victim of gang violence, 13 out of the 14 attenders
were now in education, employment, or train-ing.
Also on the platform was Christian Guy, managing director of the
Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), which published a paper Gangs:
Time to Wake Up, in October, voicing "deep concern that the
Government is not serious about making a long-term commitment to
tackling gang culture and its roots".
The CSJ is calling for greater investment in preventative work,
improved relations between young people and the police, and
long-term funding, adequately communicated to charities working on
The Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, spoke of the need to
tackle both the "rights-obsessive culture", where solidarity had
been lost, and worklessness. Young people needed to show
"resilience" and be supported by an "army of mentors", he
suggested; and, in the context of single parenthood, "the
phenomenon of 'baby mother' is one we need to leave back in the
The conference was closed by the Revd Les Isaac, the founder of
the charity Street Pastors (
News, 7 September 2012). The Church, with the Government and
the police, was one of the "three biggest gangs", he said: it had
"resources, influence, and power". It "needs to be more pragmatic,
more visionary, stop thinking that they are in heaven when some of
their communities are in hell. . . We are spending too much time
talking about sex rather than the real issues."