A Mother Has Her Say...

The following is a long letter we received in response to the article written by local policeman PS Leet in the November edition of the Directory, that referred to the tragic death of a local young person and the media coverage regarding the incident. You can read the original article here. Any opinions expressed or claims made in the letter are not necessarily the opinion of the Directory.

I am writing in response to PS Leets article about Alcohol and Young People in Novembers issue of The Fiveways Directory.I am the mother of the young person who tragically lost his young life on December 1st 2007 who PS Leet referred to in his article. I was absolutely shocked and dismayed that he could write about my son in such a public way, and although PS Leet did not name my son, the people in the local area knew who he was talking about and I would like to balance out his article with my own views.

Firstly, I would like to make it clear that we never encouraged, condoned or bought Max alcohol, and were very supportive to the Police when on the 2 occasions they brought him home, and kept him home, when others were back out within minutes.
Whilst PS Leet writes that the press quite rightly reported the tragic, dreadful and indescribable loss of my son, he is unhappy that the press did the Police a great disservice in failing to report or even acknowledge the intervention work which they carry out when finding youths drinking underage. He was also unhappy with how the press reported that young people are intimidated and hassled by the Police. I would like to take this opportunity to have my say.

Yes, I agree that teenagers should not be drinking, but when I sat at my son's inquest in August and September, 8 months after he passed, I had to listen to Trading Standards quoting statistics about the sale of alcohol to minors in the last four years. Figures quoted, in court, stated that the sale of alcohol has risen by 40%, but within the last four years, there have been no prosecutions against the licensed premises that sell alcohol to our children.  A Dectective Inspector who ran the investigation told me, there are too many loop holes to get through just to close the licensed premises down. Should we as parents not be worried that no effective action has been taken to address this issue? Surely the most sensible solution to a problem is to deal with it at source. If young people can not buy alcohol, they wont be able to drink it. I would just like to add that no action was taken against the Roundhill Public House, or Highlife stores, where Max and his friends purchased alcohol on that tragic evening of 1st December 2007.

The teenagers of this generation are not the first to chance their luck regarding the  purchase of alcohol, if this problem is not dealt with, they certainly will not be the last! Only yesterday, I was walking along London Road, and noticed many adults with alcoholic cans in their hands, unchallenged by the Police?

I was a witness under oath at my son's inquest, and I am not a liar, on the 1st occasion Max was bought home, he claims he was bullied in the back of the police car. He sat and sobbed that evening, trying to understand why the Police thought they could intimidate and bully anyone, especially young people.

PS Leet claims that the Police do not turn a blind eye to underage drinkers, and that they either inform parents or take the young person in question, home. Would he or anyone else like to explain to me why they did not take Max's two friends home that evening, especially as one lives in Portslade, and by his own admission had drunk more than Max that evening? Our house is 10 minutes away from that fatal wall,  that the Police say Max fell over! Also the parents of Max's friends never received a visit or a call about their child being unlawfully stopped and searched and under the influence of alcohol. Were the Police doing their job correctly by not contacting the parents/carers? Supposing their child had come to harm that evening.  Why did I not get a call to say that Max had run off (which in my opinion is because of the intimidation he had suffered before). Also was it ok for PC Laine to radio through that "Max was an idiot", I think not, and as far as I have been told he has been reprimanded about this.

One of the teenagers involved in the incident that night was accused of giving wrong details of his address and telephone number. He responded "I have not, please phone my mum now" NO call was made. II believe that that is an intimidatory tactic, and to my understanding of working with teenagers myself, the officer in question was trying to provoke the young person. Should he not have made a call to the persons mother and if it was proven he had given the wrong information, then accuse him?

Upon talking to other parents since, it has come to light that their children have been stopped and searched for no reason, and also on occasion not been given the stop and search paperwork; not taken home and not had a call made to their parents/carers. One mother told me that her young girl was stopped one day for no reason, when she asked why, she was told "because we can!" the girl was upset and mentioned the tragic death of Max, the police officer in question, said he "didnt care". 
PS Leet was a witness at the inquest, which means he was under oath, but he was found to be making allegations he had no evidence for by the Coroner, Veronica Hamilton Deeley, when he tried to accuse Max of running off on several occasions, however when asked dates and times, he had no specifics.

PS Leet also omitted to put in his article that he knocked my door one day and told me I was one of the most supportive parents and wondered if I would like to appear on a television documentary about underage drinking, I responded no, as my son had not been out for about 6 months, he was going to the gym four times a week, he was at college, he worked two days a week and had worked all summer to buy his own moped. I also mentioned that he didn't go out much because he was fed up of walking down the road, just to be stopped by the Police. I would like to point out that my son did not have a criminal record, the only thing he appeared to do wrong, was to wear his favourite pink jumper often, which highlighted him.

There was another occasion when a youth had damaged a moped in Balfour Road, yet again Max was in the vicinity that evening and was bought home by PS Leet. My partner spoke to PS Leet who confirmed no action would be taken as the owner of the bike just wanted the damage paid for. I telephoned PS Leet and told him I would speak to the boy's mother, because I knew who had caused the damage and I relayed the conversation PS Leet had had with my partner when he had dropped Max off that night. The mother was in agreement that I should tell PS Leet the name of her son. Despite the assurances made by PS Leet that no action would be taken, action was indeed taken against the boy. I felt I had betrayed another mother's trust as PS Leet had mine. My point here is that surely it is the job of the Police to build trust within the community and not to go back on what they have previously stated? I as an adult felt intimidated on this occasion.

I would also like to make it known that young people are not just stopped for being under the influence of alcohol, but are stopped if they are in a group of more than two. PS Leet also informs us in the article that between 2005 and 2008, 350 homes visits were conducted. I feel that it would be interesting to hear from those parents to see if their child had felt bullied and intimidated on those occasions.

The question is, when will the fact be recognized and addressed that there are not enough facilities and affordable clubs/venues for young people in this area. Let's get these young people off the streets anf given them something constructive to do!!!!     

I feel very strongly about this issue and about the way the Police have handled the specific incident with my son. I feel that by being a supportive parent to the Police, it helped their statistics by getting one more child off the streets, but where has this got me and my family? We have lost my beautiful precious son, brother, grandson, nephew and great friend too many. Our hearts are broken, and I still, 12 months on, have to convince my daughter that the Police are there to help and to this day we still have not even received an apology from the Police!   

Posted: 14th of November 2008