‘We are a lost society, street crime kids must be punished’

By Andrew Gimson


PEOPLE in Peckham in south-east London have some radical advice for the Government about how to tackle the problem of street crime. “If you brought back the cat o’nine tails, all these muggings wouldn’t happen,” as one man put it in the Walmer Castle, a pub frequented by West Indians.

Everyone was appalled by the murder in Peckham of Damilola Taylor, apparently at the hands of other children, and everyone agreed that corporal punishment had an essential part to play in the task of restoring the authority of teachers and parents over children.

A Jamaican mother whose own child had been to Oliver Goldsmith’s, the same primary school as Damilola, said: “They’ve got to bring the law back into schools so that the teacher can scold the kid. Give the teachers and parents back the power. The cane, the slipper, those things have got to come back. We’re a lost society. These kids today, they need it. They want to fight the teachers. I’ve seen it in the school.

“Kids in school in Jamaica, they know how to behave themselves. Here, the kids are a law unto themselves. Little as they are, they can do what they want. When I was naughty at school, I got a good clonk and I didn’t do it again.”

A man from St Lucia said: “Crime in Peckham is ridiculous. The youth in Peckham, they do anything. They punch a woman, they take a bag. My little boy, he’s 15, they took his mobile phone off him. If anybody lays a hand on my son, there’s going to be mayhem.

“If any child touch my son, I guarantee you that his father and mother will be for it. You cannot lay hands on children, but someone’s got to pay for it. What would you do if your son was killed by a couple of kids? You don’t tell me you’re just going to moan and weep, and not think of taking any revenge? Don’t tell me you’re just going to leave it to the law.”

“We have not got enough police,” said a white pensioner who has lived his whole life in Peckham. “If you had more coppers, I don’t think you’d have half the trouble.”

“There’s no police presence on the streets,” said the man from St Lucia, who is 61 and has spent 35 years in London. “The police are just scared to go up there.

“There’s nothing for the youth here, and if it’s not the youth there’s so many mental people,” a Jamaican woman said. “We’ve got children’s homes round the back here, we’ve got a hostel for the mentally ill. My daughter one day was assaulted by one of the mentals. They need something to keep the kids off the streets. We used to have sports that was compulsory. Football, netball, swimming.

“But I still like Peckham. I don’t care what anyone says. Most of the time it’s not people that live here that cause all the grief. It’s people from outside. Part of the trouble is the kids now have too much luxury. When I was a kid, in the early Seventies, when we got talcum powder or a packet of handkerchiefs for Christmas we appreciated it. Now if a kid doesn’t get a computer or some expensive trainers they don’t want it.

“I think boot camps would be the best place for some of these horrible little kids. The social services are a load of rubbish. They’re no use to man or beast. If you go to social services to get help, you ain’t getting no help. It takes a child to die before they take action.”

A 27-year-old man who arrived a year ago from Jamaica said: “The Bible tells you this: you must not spare the rod and spoil the child. In Jamaica you see the love of Jesus Christ. In Jamaica you have a more holy atmosphere, to my knowledge. Kids would be in church, waiting to see in the Millennium. People go in the church with their children. Everyone here went to see the Millennium wheel.”