It is impossible to properly understand the heartbreak and grief a parent feels at the violent death of their son caught up in gang warfare.
Five years on and that sense of loss is as painful to Jackie Nicholson today as it was when Brett Blake was stabbed to death by former childhood friends. Sheffield at the time was in the grip of a violent gang culture that wreaked violence and devastation on people’s lives. Jackie has spoken out today warning other parents to work hard with their children to ensure that violence is not seen as a badge of honour worn by some people that could wreck their lives. Thankfully, Sheffield is a different place today - transformed because of the hard work of community leaders, the police and the council. It was recently praised by Sheffield’s most senior judge Alan Goldsack QC, who cited the work carried out by the police in tackling and virtually eradicating postcode gangs in the city. And we were witness to that 18 months ago when Sheffield avoided the riots that wrecked other cities across the country following the unrest that broke out in Tottenham. But the council knows it cannot be complacent, which is why its No More Wasted Lives initiative is so important. Backed by Home Office funding, the council is digging deeper into the causes of gang culture, with the aim of ensuring our streets remain safe. We know we still have some problems, just last year we had an area of Sheffield that was declared a “no go zone” by social workers because of the fear of violence. But this initiative demonstrates that we are winning the war - a war that we desperately hope will mean that other parents won’t suffer the heartbreak that Jackie is still living with every day.
We all probably have fond memories of lollipop men and women from our childhood and this week we are celebrating their Diamond Jubilee. The job is tougher and more dangerous than it used to be, so we should pause to thank them for carrying out their work in all sorts of weathers and withstanding the abuse they sometimes get.