Originally published in the Essex Chronicle, at some point in 2007.

It’s been two years since I first joined PEPYS, but as I turn 18, it’s finally time to say goodbye. I’ve managed to attend all 23 meetings since PEPYS began, written an article for this paper, attended two PEPYS conferences, and even addressed the ACPO Youth Justice conference. I’ve been delighted to help out and hope I’ve made a difference for young people through my efforts.

Most recently, I was interviewed by the Home Affairs editor of the Sunday Telegraph, as was the PEPYS Programme manager and another young person. He implied that he was going to write a positive article in the Telegraph magazine about us – but instead a front page headline article “Police give teenage tearaways lessons in handling the media” appeared, blasting the presence of former offenders on the youth forum. Ben Leapman’s bizarre fixation on the fact that eight members out of a hundred were given media training, which everyone has since used to the full in helping the police, surprised me. Although I expect distortions of truth in tabloids, a broadsheet engaging in such blatant rabble rousing is disgraceful.

Leapman thinks it shocking to have former criminals trying to deter other young people from crime. Who knows better what makes young people commit crime and how to stop them, a middle-class grammar school kid, or someone who’s actually been through the system? If someone foolishly commits petty crime in their youth, and pays their sentence in full, must we punish them with that stigma forever more, or throw headlines at them damning them for helping other young people out of the same problems they found themselves in? Leapman even wheeled in a member of the Taxpayers’ Alliance to say “This is a perfect example of how modern policing in Britain has completely lost its way.” If PEPYS can cause a drop of 34% in youth crime and 60% their re-offending rate in just two years, the cost of which vastly outweighs the cost of PEPYS many times over, that hardly seems like a waste of taxpayers’ money. Perhaps the Taxpayers’ Alliance would prefer to simply abolish the police entirely, as they seem to prefer money over safety?

I have fought for young people for over four years, but as I’m soon no longer a young person, I hand over to the next generation. Perhaps they will finally see the end to such idiocies as this.