'Negative spiral' - Reformed ex-offender reacts to city violence

Ex-offender Junior Smart, of the St Giles Trust's SOS project has reacted to recent stabbings in Norwich 

Ex-offender Junior Smart, of the St Giles Trust's SOS project has reacted to recent stabbings in Norwich - Credit: St Giles Trust/Francis Redwood

An expert has warned schoolchildren and teenagers risk getting caught in a "negative spiral" due to poverty.

Junior Smart is an ex-offender who was sentenced to 12 years in prison due to a serious drug offence as a teenager.

While in custody, he vowed to help others who found themselves caught up in the same situation.

He has gone on to be the founder and business development manager of St Giles Trust's SOS project.

The national charity - which covers Norfolk - works with people caught up in crime or faced with poverty, mental health or addiction problems. 

Recent stabbings in Norwich's Vale Green and Motum Road have been linked to conflicts between drug gangs and county lines feuds. 

Commenting on the recent violence, Mr Smart talked about the root of such problems.

St Giles Trust

Ex-offender Junior Smart, of St Giles Trust's SOS project - Credit: St Giles Trust/Francis Redwood

"This sort of stuff starts through silly things like peer pressure and many of the gangs advertise or promote what they are doing online," Mr Smart said.

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"It becomes a negative spiral and it lends itself to the next generation being desperate for money.

"There was one group advertising there was easy money to be made. They are setting people up for scams through platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat saying there is a quick £100 or £200 to be made." 

Police swarmed Magpie Road in Norwich amid reports of a stabbing.

Police swarmed Magpie Road in Norwich after a teenager had been found stabbed in Motum Road. - Credit: Submitted

St Giles Trust - which has headquarters in London - was set up around 60 years ago and has a base in Norwich's Sackville Place in Magdalen Street. 

Rising levels of poverty have been exacerbated by Covid with Mr Smart emphasising the importance of educating vulnerable youngsters at this difficult time.

He said: "We have no idea what is coming over that hill. Families were pushed to the brink before Covid but they were not in real trouble like now. 

"Criminal exploitation is about grooming kids who are being asked to do something for gains they could not get by other means." 

Forensic teams continue their search of Vale Green on Monday morning 

Forensic teams continue their search of Vale Green on Monday morning - Credit: Ben Hardy

St Giles Trust has visited schools in the Norwich area to deliver early intervention work. 

"Children being murdered and all that is happening is because services have been cut," Mr Smart added.

Floral tributes continued to be left for Joe Dix in Vale Green on Monday 

Floral tributes continued to be left for Joe Dix in Vale Green on Monday - Credit: Ben Hardy

Visit www.stgilestrust.org.uk for more information.