Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

'No easy answer' to gang problems

Bishop James Jones
The church plays a vital part in building up communities, Bishop Jones said

There is no simple answer to solving the problems of controlling gangs, the Bishop of Liverpool has said.

The Right Rev Dr James Jones spoke after Sean Mercer, 18, was jailed for the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones.

Dr Jones said young people joined gangs because it gave them a sense of belonging and hierarchy.

Speaking about Rhys's parents, Melanie and Stephen Jones, he said their dignity had been a "ray of light" in a "dark episode for the city".

"This particular verdict will help them in the next step of their journey through their grief, in rebuilding their lives," he said.

Adding: "There are a variety of reasons as to why there is a breakdown of respect and of authority, and the church has a part to play in building up the community especially in the inner city.

"Actually very often it's just the church that's left in the inner city as a vital part of the fabric of the community. The banks have gone, even the pub has gone, the post office has gone, but the church is there."

Unanimous convictions

He said that "the breakdown in our society" needed to be challenged.

"The churches in this city are really involved in all our communities and when we look at the breakdown of society there isn't a simple reason and there isn't a simple solution either."

Rhys Jones
Rhys Jones was shot dead in the car park of a Liverpool pub in August 2007

Rhys Jones was shot dead outside the Fir Tree pub in August 2007 as he walked home from football practice.

Sean Mercer, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, was convicted of his murder after a nine-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.

He was jailed for life with a minimum tariff of 22 years.

Fellow gang members James Yates, 20, of Dodman Road and Nathan Quinn, 18, of Wickett Close, both Croxteth; Gary Kays, 26, of Mallard Close and Melvin Coy, 25, of Abbeyfield Drive, both West Derby, Liverpool, and Boy M, 16, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were convicted unanimously of assisting an offender after they helped Mercer evade the police for months.

Defendant Boy K, who can now be named as Dean Kelly, 17, of Sword Walk, Croxteth, after Mr Justice Irwin lifted reporting restrictions, was convicted of four related charges.

Kays and Coy were each sentenced to seven years.

Yates, Quinn, Kelly and Boy M were expected to be sentenced in January.

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