Many of you will not know that, since the murder of our James, in a cowardly and motiveless knife attack, we have received much needed help from Victim Support, an independent charity, that provides specialist practical and emotional support, to victims and witnesses of crime. Their support has contributed significantly to our recovery to date, through the expert trauma and bereavement counselling, provided by Richard Mason Smith and the charity’s day to day handling of so many sensitive practical matters, which we have been incapable of contemplating, let alone undertaking.
When Beverley, Charlotte and I also consider the support that we have received from family and friends, James’ friends, the Church, Walsall Council and the incredible community of Aldridge, we have to say that we have been extremely fortunate, notwithstanding our circumstances. Simply, we would not be where we are today, had that help not been there, because we wouldn’t have had the emotional strength to do it. We didn’t have to ask for help, it was offered…. That renewed strength has allowed us to become ‘contributors’ within society once again, through The James Brindley Foundation and the work of The James Brindley Full Circle Programme, which gives us focus, and some degree of pain relief. It stems from the feeling of ‘belonging’ to something much bigger and stronger than ourselves, which we know as ‘community.’ Our actions are also inspired by James himself, because, as we repeatedly learnt, from the hundreds of cards and letters we received following his death, James had helped so many of his friends, in their time of need, during his painfully short life.
The importance of ‘belonging’, is also at the centre of The James Brindley Full Circle Programme, which is an accredited educational tool for children, young people and their families, as well as an assessment tool for professionals within the education, and health and social services sectors. Alongside education, it seeks to explore in creative and engaging ways, positive alternatives to anti-social or criminal behaviours and to develop an individual’s consequential thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills, in order for them to make well-informed, positive ‘life choices.’ It is our belief and that of our professionals within The Foundation, that when family relationships have not adequately developed, or have broken down, children and young people then seek to satisfy their basic need to ‘belong’ elsewhere, and as a consequence, become vulnerable to exploitation, either within the family itself, or outside it. The James Brindley Full Circle Programme is unique, because it addresses the root causes of family dysfunction, social isolation and mental health issues, as well as tackling head-on, the symptoms that we all witness through the media every day, such as substance misuse, gang culture, child exploitation and antisocial behaviours. It is this public health approach to tackling our societal problems, that we believe will provide the long-term solution.
However, we also believe, that this must form only part of an overall package of measures that are needed, to address issues in the short term, because every day now, we hear that yet another precious life has been lost to mindless violent crime, usually through the use of a bladed weapon. The reporting of knife crime in ‘matter of fact’ terms, only conveys how anaesthetised we have become, through constant repetition and it lacks any sense of moral outrage which everyone should feel. Time is truly of the essence, and these measures must surely include an increased police presence within our communities and schools, and fully integrated communications between public services, such as policing, education, health and social services.
The law must also play its part, in correcting the imbalance between actions and their consequences, pervasive throughout society; having first-hand experience, it seems plain to us that, modifications to the criminal justice system are needed, which fails victims and their families on a regular basis. The right to silence gives defendants an opportunity to exploit the law and provides them with a place to hide. The Russian playwright, Yevgeny Yuvtushenko wrote, “when the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.” I think that the law should reflect that basic truth.
‘Joint Enterprise’ is practically impossible to prove following changes in 2017 and there is no mechanism for challenging the verdict of a jury from the victim’s perspective, yet convicted murderers have the right to challenge a conviction and a sentence. These are extremely complex issues, that we intend to confront, through campaigning and discussion with experts and Government, but they will take time.
We hear many people say that we are living in a ‘broken society’; I agree that there are many things wrong with the way we live, particularly our focus on money and possessions, the celebrity ‘get rich quick’ culture and the glamorization of violence through games, tv and cinema, which all seem to feed into normalisation of our problems. I say that we are not broken yet and while there are so many people who are committed to positive social change, change can happen… through a change in the ‘collective mood,’ within society, a recognition that we have a ‘national crisis’, a need for absolute urgency and an understanding in everyone, that they are not immune; this terrible disease can strike anyone down, at anytime, anywhere; We have to start a ‘revolution in the home’, by having those difficult conversations with our children and not hiding away from problems, but confronting them. Parenting is the most important job we will ever undertake and it’s also the most difficult. Many of us feel that we are losing control of our children to outside influences, some of us actually are, but there is help and there are choices; never be afraid to make the right choice and ask for help if you notice a change in your child’s behaviour. It could save a life.
The James Brindley Foundation was launched in order to raise funds to support and deliver The James Brindley Full Circle Programme, so that it can be delivered free of charge, to individuals or families in need. It also aims to promote and raise awareness of the Programme, as a public service, through education, health and social services. The Foundation website will be integral to achieving our objectives, and will help us to campaign for change, through all media platforms, and to provide support to families who are bereaved as a result of violent crime.
It is our aspiration to grow The Foundation to national status, so that The Full Circle Programme can be delivered throughout the UK.
With your support, and a shared sense of moral outrage, we will achieve our dream, in James’ name, for children, young people and families in need of help, everywhere. Imagine that…
Member since: 4th February 2019
Managing Director of an award winning law firm
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Award winning poet and playwright