CAMDEN police have begun a new youth initiative, combining boxing training with educational workshops. The ‘Off the Hook’ programme, launched with the Queen’s Crescent Community Association and Gospel Oak Action Link, aims to direct young people away from behaviours that can lead to crime.
PC Jan Sher, who helped set up Off the Hook, told Boxing News, “We added the workshops alongside it so for the first hour they do their boxing, which is taught by a qualified coach and then for the second hour it’s the workshop. We invite a guest and then a local officer delivers sessions as well around knife crime, stop and searches, drugs.
“We deliver presentations around knife crime prevention, drug prevention and stop and searches so they’re aware of their rights and of course they need to be aware of their responsibilities when they’re stopped by a police officer as well.”
Sergeant Darren Wiltsher explained, “These activities are allowed to continue under certain guidelines, restrictions of numbers and stuff like that. Because of the educational element of it, the vulnerability of the youths involved, that’s why but obviously we still have to adhere to certain things, i.e. we can’t do padwork.”
The young people get the educational side, and an AQA certificate once they complete the 10-week course that can go toward applications for employment or further education. Plus they get a good workout too. A key goal as well is to build up trust in the community. “We cover Gospel Oak and Haverstock, very built up areas. There is a lot of anti-social behaviour, there is a lot of drug related crime, knife crime, stuff like that,” Wiltsher said. “It’s an opportunity really for us to engage in a different way. Because obviously we can go out, we can do enforcement, stop and search, arrest where it’s appropriate, stuff like that, and that’s always going to be a tool in our box. [But this is] a different approach, engaging youths I suppose more on the cusp, building relationships between us and the youth as well, rather than the only experience they have of us is just seeing them on the street.”
PC Sher added, “They don’t have that much contact with the police, these youths. Now that we’ve got this project set up we want to make that first contact positive. We don’t want it to be through stop and search, we don’t want it to be through that arrest. We want this to be the first contact and we want this to be the only contact and to be positive.”
With a successful rollout, they will look to expand beyond Camden as well, first to King’s Cross and to take referrals from the Youth Offending Team. “We’re just trying to build the relationship with them,” Sher said, “and give them the confidence they need to choose the right path.”
REMEMBERING HARRY PERRY
Patrick Myler on one of the greats of Irish amateur boxing
Harry Perry, one of the all-time greats of Irish amateur boxing, has died after a long illness in his native city of Dublin. He was 86.
In a career comprising around 300 bouts, he was nine times an Irish champion from featherweight to welterweight, represented his country in two Olympic Games and won a bronze medal in the European amateur championships in 1959.
Perry made an impressive entry into senior ranks while still a 17-year-old college student by capturing the Irish featherweight title in 1952.
Lauded as a bright prospect for a medal at that year’s Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, his hopes were dashed when the Irish Amateur Boxing Association decided he was too young to be risked.
He did qualify to wear the Irish green vest for the next Olympics, at Melbourne, Australia, in 1956, but made an early exit against the Frenchman Claude Saluden. Once again, he represented his country at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, but was eliminated on the tightest of split decisions against Korea’s Kim Ki Soo.
On the domestic front, Perry was best remembered for a series of thrilling encounters with Fred Tiedt, a 1956 Olympics silver medallist.
Often asked why he never turned professional, Harry admitted he was tempted by an offer from British big-time promoter Jack Solomons but decided he was happiest boxing as an amateur, travelling around the world and getting chances to win medals at major tournaments.
Satisfied after capturing his ninth Irish title, Harry announced his retirement from the ring in 1962.
Employed in the Irish ferry company Sealink’s passenger sales division, he was later promoted to public relations officer.
Perry died on January 22.