The teenage killer who shot schoolboy Rhys Jones dead as he walked home from football practice was sentenced yesterday to a minimum of 22 years in jail for murder, as a trial judge condemned what he termed his brutality and cowardice.
Irwin said the offence arose from the "stupid, brutal gang conflict" which had struck the part of Liverpool where Mercer lived. "You were caught up in that from a young age but it is clear you gloried in it. It is wrong to let anyone glorify or romanticise this kind of gang conflict."
"You are not soldiers, you have no discipline, no training, no honour. You do not command respect." He told Mercer he was a selfish, shallow criminal "remarkable only by the danger you pose to others".
Sadly there is no doubt that the gang rivalry in Liverpool 11 that brought about this tragic event will still be going on.
Sean Mercer will probably not be held up as a hero even by his friends. After all he brought a lot of problems for them with his bundled attempt to shoot at members of their rival gang. They will believe that they could have done a better job.Their disgust with Mercer will probably not be because he killed an innocent young boy but because he failed to deal with the issue at hand.
I suspect Keith, that as with all these things, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.
The Police (who have done a brilliant job with this investigation, but I've not read a word of praise for them) have been consistent with their message that these 'social groups' should not be regarded as 'gangs'.
If we think of the 80s gangs as shown in, for example, 'Hill Street Blues' then we're talking about order, discipline, hierarchy, initiation ceremonies, colours, even treaties to allow some gangs safe passage through rival territory. The Police have said that this simply isn't the case in Liverpool 11. Here we've got a loose group of mates, with a geographical rivalry between Croxteth and Norris Green. I might even go as far as to suggest that the subsequent cover up and protection conspiracy was not so much as a result of the efforts of Mercer and co., but perhaps the generation above in which the 'Thou shalt not grass' culture is even more deeply embedded.
It's true that Liverpool 11 is facing some enormous challenges, not least due to the decline of the huge Boot Estate into a ghetto as it gradually gets knocked down and rebuilt. But there are good people, good schools and a couple of good churches. The will is definitely there to refocus and rebuild, and I'm trying to do my bit as well. I went to school in Norris Green and it gave me a lot. I'm trying to give back.
It's been a tragedy, but hopefully one which can be learned from. And we need to start the work in the schools. And we're doing it.
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