Feature: Young offender turns his life around

Ex-young offender Daniel Knight, 19, with Rutland County Council senior community safety officer Hugh Crouch and community safety officer Leanne Wrentmore, outside Jules youth club, Oakham
Ex-young offender Daniel Knight, 19, with Rutland County Council senior community safety officer Hugh Crouch and community safety officer Leanne Wrentmore, outside Jules youth club, Oakham
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A persistent offender and drug-user has turned his life around after asking his local council for help.

Daniel Knight, 19, had come to the end of the road of juvenile crime and realised he faced a custodial sentence unless he changed his ways.

He approached Rutland County Council’s youth service and Safer Rutland Partnership for help in kicking his bad habits.

In the past 18 months they have helped him stay out of trouble and his prolific criminal activity and antisocial behaviour has reduced to nothing and he has been off drugs for eight months.

Suffering from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) from a young age, Danny found school difficult and was moved from the Vale of Catmose College to Knossington Grange Therapeutic School for boys with behavioural problems.

From the age of 14 he was drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and was hooked on Mcat (mephedrone), or meow meow, an amphetamine-like drug - and stealing to feed his habits, even from a church.

His mother Mel Knight and maternal grandparents were at their wits’ end with his behaviour and court appearances.

“I was always in trouble and was doing a lot of crime – bike thefts and burglaries mainly and hanging around with the wrong people,” Danny said.

“I would get arrested and sent to court and was lucky not to be sent away.”

At school he was disobedient and disruptive.

“I couldn’t learn,” he said. “If a teacher asked me to stand up in class I couldn’t.

“The trouble is, I thought I was all right and couldn’t understand why other people got so upset with me. When I was on drugs I just didn’t care.”

He committed about 25 offences and was before a court four times. Various community orders were tried but on reaching 18 he faced adult court and custodial punishment.

Rutland community safety officers Hugh Crouch and Leanne Wrentmore worked hard to help him.

Hugh said: “Danny was exceptionally lucky that most of his offending was as a juvenile and there were things we could try with him.

“He was in the last stage of a voluntary behaviour contract and was on the cusp of being sent to prison when he finally realised it was up to him.”

Danny’s final personalised control order warned him not to go near a church in Uppingham he had stolen from , not to drink or take drugs and to stay out of Oakham and Uppingham town centres.

Having lived in Oakham and Uppingham, he took positive action by moving out of town to Greetham where his very supportive mother and grandparents live. His father plays no part in his life, although they do talk occasionally.

Swanswell, the national drugs and alcohol support service, put team Danny in touch with TwentyTwenty, a Loughborough-based charity that helps troubled youngsters.

Hugh and Leanne managed to obtain £1,000, or 12 months funding, for a personal TwentyTwenty mentor to support Danny. He is currently halfway through this treatment and his mentor, Michelle Morgan, has made a big difference.

Leanne said: “I felt Daniel needed someone to bond with, to steer him in the right direction, he wasn’t a lost cause.

“We felt that we should give him one last chance.”

Danny says Michelle has taught him anger management.

“My mentor has helped me learn to control myself; I have a really good bond with her,” he said.

“If I have a problem I just ring Michelle any time. Before, when I got angry I would lose my head.”

Since mentoring began in December, Danny has made great progress and is keen to tell other youngsters that they need to make the right choices in life.

He recently got an award from TwentyTwenty for turning his life around and his moving speech in front of 250 people so impressed his audience that he received a standing ovation.

He is now a volunteer for Rutland youth projects and sees himself as a future mentor.

“The presentation was on how I went downhill and why I wanted to sort myself out,” he said.

“ I lost people – I had a girlfriend for four years and lost her through drugs. I realised it was time down the drain.

“I’m clean now and have stopped hanging around with the friends I had, although I’m happy to say hi to them. I realise now what a bad state I was in. I much prefer where I am now.”

He recently passed his driving test and his grandparents will buy and insure a motorbike for him. He is signed up for a college course in public service and is striving to regain the physical fitness lost through regular drug abuse.

When his remaining convictions are spent he hopes to join the Army’s Royal Logistics Corps.

Danny’s mum, Mel, said she was over the moon at the change in Danny.

“He’s done brilliantly. I’ve got my son back,” she said.

l Daniel wanted to thank Hugh, Leanne and the Safer Rutland Partnership, his mum, Sandra at Connexions career guidance service, Michelle at TwentyTwenty, Jules Youth Centre, grandparents Carol and Martin Fairbairn and the youth offending service, especially former Metropolitan Police officer Mick Dunkley, for their help.

Fact File

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The Safer Rutland Partnership was set up as a requirement of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act which aimed to get local authorities and the police working more closely together to tackle problems. In Rutland, one of the safest counties in the UK, this means ensuring levels of crime and disorder remain low and dealing with community safety issues as they arise.

Rutland County Council has a community safety team which works with police, the fire and rescue service and the primary care trust as partners and Leicestershire Youth Offending Service, the probation service and Rutland Consortium as 
co-operating authorities.

The team’s priorities are to deliver and manage crime reduction initiatives, to tackle antisocial behaviour and substance abuse and to manage Safer and Stronger Communities government funding.

After young offenders are reported to police the community cafety team and the county council’s children and young people’s services team will be consulted.

The usual practice is for a warning letter to be sent, followed by a formal warning and possible assistance from the youth inclusion support 
project. If this fails to work the next step is an acceptable behaviour contract, which is voluntary, followed by an antisocial behaviour order (Asbo), which is more serious. A parenting order may also be issued.