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Last Updated: Friday, 29 July 2005, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
It's about 'Respect'
While there are many causes for youth violence, a recurring theme in the prison interviews conducted for Panorama's investigation, "Guns, Knives and Children" was the importance given to "respect and reputation" as a way of explaining why violent crimes often occur.

Carl Holmes

For Carl Holmes, aged 19 and serving a five-year sentence for false imprisonment and conspriacy to GBH, it is one of the prime causes of violence:

"Everything's about respect. If you show someone respect, you expect to be respected back but if someone don't respect you, and they keep disrespecting you, and you don't do nothing about it, other people think they can disrespect you as well."

And to maintain that "respect", in his view, you have to resort to violence.

According to Damien Barrett, the reputation and respect that he gained came early in his life. Bullied at school for having ginger hair and freckles, his response was to fight back. The victim of violence became the perpetrator. He now had "respect" among his school mates.

Damian Barrett
Damian Barrett
He said: "As being quite a tough guy, which isn't a nice reputation to have. It helps in some ways because some people are scared of you and won't start on you or anything, but then it's bad in the other sense that people will start on you for it."

Once that reputation was acquired, it had to be maintained, losing face was not an option. Violence help to sort out problems, no matter how trivial they might be.

"It became instinct. I mean after being bullied all the time and that and learning to fight back and finding it stopped the bullying, I kind of started using violence as an answer for everything, because in many cases it usually works."

Damien Barrett, aged 18, nearly killed a man for trying to run off without paying for a 20 deal of cannabis. Reporter Shelley Joffre asked him why he couldn't have just let it go.

He said: "I couldn't. Having all my friends about me I couldn't just let him run off with it. It wouldn't have done me any favours."

The consequences of doing so would have been damaging to his reputation as a tough guy and as a drug dealer.

For him it would mean "being known to be a soft touch I suppose. I mean when you're a drug dealer you have to have a bit of a reputation otherwise people will take the piss. I mean you've got people have got know that you ain't going to take any shit like that."

While on bail for this offence, he stabbed two people at a wedding reception last year after a petty argument. He is currently serving a six-year sentence.

Ryan Manning
Ryan Manning
Why is this sort of "respect" so important to so many of these young men? According to Ryan Manning, aged 18, "respect" is earned not just because you can handle yourself when violence occurs but that you are there for your mates when things get tough. You only want respect from those that matter.

"Just knowing that people have got respect for you, like they won't try anything out of the ordinary, won't try like rip you off, won't try rob you, won't try bump you, things like that. But you want respect from certain people just so you know, basically if anything happens, they're there for you, they can back you up, things like that."

Ryan Manning is serving six years and nine months for aggravated burglary.

Panorama's "Guns, knives and children" was broadcast on Sunday 31 July 2005 at 22:15 BST on BBC One. Further articles and information relating to the programme are being made available following transmission.

Watch a clip about 'respect' from the programme

Guns, knives and children
29 Jul 05 |  Panorama

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