Romford anti-crime campaigner speaks to Havering school pupils
PUBLISHED: 16:39 04 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:41 04 March 2015
A former gang member is determined to warn teens against a life of crime.
Paul Hannaford, of Romford, held a workshop with a group of Havering school pupils at Romford fire station, as part of London Fire Brigade’s Life programme, which teaches teens aged 14-17 a range of skills to build their confidence.
He said: “We need to educate young people so they won’t end up on drugs and joining gangs.
“When I was at school, no one told us about that kind of life so we found out by ourselves – a lot of my friends are now either in prison, addicted to drugs or dead.
“I want the kids I speak to not to make the same mistakes I did.”
Paul grew up in Hornchurch in the 1980s, joining a gang in his teens and by the time he was 15-years-old, he already had 10 convictions.
Paul then experienced his first taste of heroin which was given to him by a friend at the age of 19.
This led to him having a fully fledged addiction to not only heroin, but also cannabis and amphetamines.
He said: “I wanted to keep in the “crowd” so I was heavily involved in a lot of crime.
“We used to carry knives and knuckle-dusters just in case we got into any fights while we were out.
“I was in destruction mode.”
But Paul decided to turn his life around and in 2009, he started visiting schools up and down the country, telling them about what he experienced and has so far spoken to about 300,000.
He is now working with both the London Fire Brigade and Premiere League football clubs in an attempt to spread his message.
Paul said: “There’s nothing clever about getting into trouble, joining a gang and taking drugs.
“It is guaranteed to ruin your life.
“When I was a little boy, I dreamed about becoming a footballer but I ended up as a crackhead.
“Schools need to talk about these issues to stop them from happening – early intervention is the key.”