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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Hard-hitting crime drama gives Llangollen pupils taste of justice

Iwan Garmon from Theatr Clwyd as  'Darren' the defendant is led into court watched by Ysgol Dinas Bran pupils. 

* 'Darren' faces justice in the shape of with 
Celia Jenkins as the magistrate. 

* Pupils hear the story of 'Darren' and his mum 'Caitlin' played by Georgia Griffiths.

A teenager groomed by a vicious county lines gang to become a drugs supplier has been sentenced to 18 months in youth custody.

Magistrates heard the 16-year-old called Darren was forced to sell illegal drugs after he started taking drugs himself and fell into debt.

He was caught when he was seen passing drugs to another person at a party and was arrested. Police officers found him to be in possession of MDMA or Ecstasy, a Class A controlled drug.

When he appeared before Wrexham Magistrates Court he pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing drugs with intent to supply. The youngster also admitted possessing a bladed article, a knife.

There were emotional scenes at the court as Darren was led away to begin his sentence.

But although based on real events, this was actually a drama workshop organised as part of the pioneering Justice in a Day project and 'Darren' was actually actor called Iwan Garmon.

It was organised by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) with the aim of giving young people a taste of how the criminal justice system works and the devastating effect crime can have on families and the community.

The day-long workshop, created by actors and creatives at Mold-based Theatr Clwyd, was attended by 40 Year 10 students from Ysgol Dinas Bran in Llangollen as part of their BTEC in Public Service course. 

PACT project manager Dave Evans said the aim is to give young people a taste of how the criminal justice system works and the devastating effect crime can have on families and the community.

He said: "The purpose is to educate young people about the criminal justice system and the consequences of crime. In addition it helps prevent them becoming offenders and equally importantly the victims of crime.

"The feedback we have had from schools and some of the case studies we've done with young people over the years and how they've benefitted from the workshops has been quite profound."

He added the scenario presented during the day-long course was nothing like how crime is portrayed on television and elsewhere.

"This is absolute real life," said Dave.

Real life magistrate Celia Jenkins told the students the project aims to get the message across to young people that crime "really isn't worth it"

She said she became a magistrate about 20 years ago and now sits on the bench about once a week hearing all manner of cases.

Answering questions from the youngsters, she said: "Every case starts in the Magistrates Court. Some are so  serious we have to send them to  Crown Court but we deal with all manner of cases. Some of the worst ones I have dealt with have involved young people."

Pupil Jasmine Wright, 15, sat alongside Ms Jenkins and played the role of a magistrate in the workshop.

She said: "I've learned a lot about how the justice system works and the difference between adult and youth courts.  More time is spent on youth justice so they don't do it (offend) again.

Her classmate Bradley Richards said: "I knew a few things about the justice system before but didn't know the things the court took into account which is to try and help the offender."

Megan Bowen, also 15, added the course could lead to her becoming part of law enforcement at some point in the future.

"I've had my eyes on becoming a police officer and maybe I'll look into it a bit more," she said.

Another Ysgol Dinas Bran student, Emily Curtis, 15, said. "The best part of today was being in the courtroom, just sitting there listening and seeing what happens and how they get sentenced and how the whole system works."

Written and directed by Emyr John, Theatr Clwyd's creative engagement associate and the son of a former North Wales Police Superintendent, he said Justice in a Day was created to help educate young people about the consequences of crime.

He said: "The actors tell the story. Students decide what they think the sentence should be but we have a real magistrate to deliver what was the actual sentence and explain why the court came to the decision it did.

"Darren is sent into youth detention for 18 months and we look at what happens and his experiences while locked up.

"It's about talking to young people in a way they can understand and in their own language. It also helps explain what can happen if they get involved in crime and how it affects not just them but their whole family and friends."

Among those present was North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin. He said the scenario was typical of the threat posed to young people by criminal gangs.

"The Justice in a Day project is an ideal way to teach young people all about how the justice system works and how committing criminal offences can destroy the lives of victims and offenders.

"It's really important that we educate our children but you have to get the presentation right and all credit to the actors here from Theatr Clwyd who have pitched it at just the right level.

"The young people here today are really getting involved and all the knowledge that's being shared raises their awareness of what could happen to them in a way we couldn't do in a classroom setting."

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