Students given stark warning on dangers of drugs

December 28 2018
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STUDENTS at Wells Blue School have received a stark warning about the dangers of drug taking and carrying knives.

Every pupil at the school attended one of several talks by former East End gang leader Paul Hannaford.

Now a reformed character, Paul visits schools, football clubs and prisons to try to prevent people ending up like he did.

With vivid descriptions and images that caused some to faint, he told the Blue School students that he went from smoking weed to taking heroin and crack cocaine, sometimes injecting himself up to 50 times a day.

“I used to wake up lonely every day in a crack den,” he said, and told the students: “On your way home tonight you are going to drive or walk past a crack den.”

Both his legs became infected, and to save one from being amputated, maggots were used to eat away the rotten flesh.

He robbed his mother’s home to help pay for his drug habit, and once woke to find himself in intensive care after being stabbed by a drug dealer.

Jailed 15 times, he said that he was a gang member for seven years but of the ten gang members, several others are already dead.

He said that he had never had a workshop on drugs and knife crime when he was at school or his life might have turned out differently.

“You’ve got your whole life in front of you,” he told the students.

“I’ve got no magic wand here today. I’d hate to go to a prison one day to do a talk and one of the prisoners is you. If you don’t want to go to prison stay away from gangs.

“You cannot stab someone if you don’t carry a knife. A knife will not protect you.

“In Somerset a lot of people take drugs. Do they all become addicts? No. Are there risks to smoking weed? There are.

“Go out, go to your parties, but just be careful. Go home at night to your mum and your dad and your sister and be grateful.”

The Blue School said that it was pleased to work in conjunction with Avon and Somerset Police and Paul Hannaford on the event.

At the end of each of Paul’s talks to every year group in the school, there was time for questions and conversations.

Blue School deputy headteacher, Max Harvey, said: “He was an inspirational speaker and the students responded extremely well to his honesty and insight. He has already spoken to over 50,000 young people this year and we consider ourselves fortunate to have benefited from his experience. Whilst warning individuals about the dangers of drug addiction, gang life, knife crime and prison, he managed to convey the importance of making positive and safe decisions in the future.”

Headteacher Mark Woodlock said: “It is important that our students understand the issues that exist in the wider world, particularly beyond the Somerset borders. Paul Hannaford’s experiences were both instructive for our students to hear and educational in the core messages they delivered. We hope that the community, inside and outside school, will benefit from his talks to our students.”

Paul’s talk forms part of the school’s programme for students educating them about the dangers of drugs, crime and the implications for individuals and the community. The previous week, parents received a talk from the police officers in Operation Topaz about how to protect themselves against the dangers of child exploitation.