Mancunian ex-gang member, Darryl Laycock, who spent over 12 years in prison for gang-related offences; ex-offender Natasha Penniston, who gave a female insight to how gangs and violence can shadow over a young family; and Dean Coady, OBE, who is a former police detective and active safe-guarder, work together combatting organised gang crime and working with vulnerable young people.
This somewhat unconventional group have come together to provide safe guarding knowledge in an event ran by Salford CPD Entitled, Street Gangs and Associated Threats, Risks and Vulnerability for young people.
Moss side has been smeared by the media for many years due to it’s link to gangland with the war between “Doddington” and “The Gooch” gangs alongside many more stemming from Cheetham Hill and Salford gangland, according to Darryl which stemmed from a war over two men seeing the same girl.
Now the three, supported by other professional contacts, are working together as well as many from the community to show the change in Moss Side and how they can deliver more prevention to those vulnerable to youth and gang related crime.
Darryl Laycock, is a fully rehabilitated ex-offender that has spent over 12 years in prison for gang related offences. He was an active gang member in Moss Side and at an early age of 13, started to sell class A drugs on the streets. He came from a broken home in which domestic violence was not uncommon and gravitated towards the streets from anti-social behavior he quickly graduated to a gang and so-called street culture.
In gang related incidents, Darryl said: “I’ve been shot on 3 different occasions. I got shot once on two occasions and I got shot 27 times on another occasion. I got stabbed 5 times once and got stabbed two times once.”
“My last charge I was caught with over 500 bullets and if those bullets would have gone back to Manchester and people would have been shot. There’s no two ways about it, I might not have shot them but if I had 500 bullets and they got split between 10 or 20 people someone would have been shot, at least 1 if not 500 people. 1 bullet has a capacity to shoot 2 or 3 people so it’s a good thing I got caught.”
Since being released from prison in March 2011, Darryl made a promise to his family to rehabilitate himself and not return to a life of crime. Moving forward he is now teaching and mentoring young people about street gangs, gang violence and the risks, threats and repercussions from a real-life view in which they may understand.
Speaking on his mentoring work, Darryl expressed: “I do have some success with some 1 to 1 work but I’m not going to be able to help everybody but if I help one person in this life I’ve done something good. I’ve done more good than I have bad to be honest.”
He is highly recognised as a mentor to vulnerable young people and a keen safe-guarder.
Dean Coady, OBE, initially came to into contact with Darryl whilst serving as police detective in XCALIBRE Task force, the gang unit for Greater Manchester. Darryl was a subject of many investigations and operations he was involved in. After chasing the ex-gang member around the streets for many years, Dean retired in 2014, Darryl became a highly respected reformed gang member and trainer and the pair become colleagues and in recent years have even become friends, to which Dean says: “my daughter even calls him uncle Darryl!”
“I looked at him at a new respect because it’s a lot easier for me to come out of policing and go into safe guarding, you know how difficult is it for someone who’s lived a life of crime, to turn their back on that and subsequently become a fantastic peer mentor, safe guarder and trainer with so much credibility that kids listen to.”
“The vast majority of people in Moss Side are fantastic, generous and law-abiding people, completely against gangs and violence.
“But it is the very small minority of gang members that tend to give the area an unwarranted bad reputation.”
Dean works collaboratively with Darryl and Natasha to be able to produce a programme which helps provide better insights for young people and adult safeguarders on gang crime and the workings inside gang organisations. This particular event, Street Gangs, and Associated Threats, Risks and Vulnerability brought a host of people from around the country and some including college teachers to be able to gain a better understanding on how they can educate young people in an attempt to make them see wise choices if they were ever caught up or lured into youth crime.
Individually, Darryl and Natasha work with young people 1 on 1 and also go into schools, colleges and universities to speak openly about their criminal pasts to be able to open their eyes and take away the glamorisation of drugs and gang related crime that you see in the media or in the world of film.
Natasha Penniston, also attended and provided a moving account from her personal perspective of how a young mother bringing up a family was overshadowed by gangs and violence. Natasha, whilst in an abusive relationship, had hidden a gun in her back garden and left for a funeral in London and whilst away resulted in her 16-year-old son, Kasha discovered the gun, brought it into the home and tragically discharged it, which led to 12-year-old sister, Kamilah, being fatally wounded and later dying in hospital. The gun was a converted revolver which had no safety lock meaning it was “a ticking time bomb.”
Reflecting on the past, Natasha said: “Tell the truth and shame the devil, it is what it is – maybe my own truth did send me to jail but I lost my daughter, I lost my world, my everything, it never leaves you.”
Natasha served 18 months in prison for possession of firearms and Kasha was sentenced to 2 years but served over a year for manslaughter and the firearm offences. Since her release, Natasha is a fully rehabilitated ex-offender and works in her community as well as with young people and current offenders.
Speaking on her rehabilitation journey, she said: “I come out of prison to do a mentoring course and then went on to do volunteering at the NHS, met a woman called Ruth Pathsman, meeting her I went on a course to do some Mindfulness and now I have a Masters degree in mindfulness.
“My passion is to teach mindfulness to ex-offenders or people that are in prison.”
Natasha since her release has been a mentor to young women involved in exploitative relationships, youth related crime or in general making wrong decisions. She has also been involved in a project called Prospect in partnership with the University of Manchester which deal with suicide prevention in prisons. In the future, Natasha hopes to continue with her mentoring and Mindfulness work in order to help more and more people. Her son Kasha, currently is hoping to make it in the music business and is producing his own music online, with songs expressing what he has experienced in his life.
Dean expressed how their main aim was in relation to youth engagement and trying to increase gang awareness. He said: “It is increasingly difficult to deliver strong safeguarding and gang awareness training to young people, with their access to social media and smart phones, they are 24/7 bombarded with threats and information that could exploit their vulnerability.
“I am just trying to empower these young people to make more informed decisions, to think about consequences of their actions as it is highly likely that you can’t ‘cure’ someone of gangs, but you can definitely make them think again.”