The truth about Hackney, do you feel safe walking there?

image If our Home Secretary Jacqui Smith doesn’t feel safe walking in Hackney, what do the people who live and work there think? I asked a teacher I know at Hackney Free and Parochial Seconday School to tell me, and her response was very candid and eye-opening about the violence. This is what she said, this is her story:

I have listed below some of the incidents/ experiences I have encountered or heard about working and living in Hackney. Be warned these are really shocking:

1). The front entrance of the school is cordoned off by the police; no one is allowed to leave the building, whilst police secure the crime scene. Two Turkish boys have used razor blades to slice the faces of two Vietnamese boys, who they had a vendetta with.

2). One of my students is sent to Feltham Youth offenders’ unit for sexually abusing younger girls and taking lewd photographs.

3). Another one of my students is sent away to a youth offenders’ unit for a crime he committed. Crime unknown.

4) One of my students has her face slashed with a compass, by a fellow student, on the neighbouring estate. He is immediately permanently excluded.

5) A group of our students throw a firework into a local Kebab shop, on their way home from school. They are immediately permanently excluded.

6) A few years ago one of our students murders a boy from another school, outside Hackney Town Hall.

7) In 1986 a teacher at Homerton College of Technology, buys a gun and murders four people, one of which is the Deputy Head’s son. Another is the father of a boy at the school.

8)  A student tries to attack a technology teacher with a sharp instrument during a lesson, a few weeks later he is charged with the murder of a pizza delivery man.

9) One of my students on the estate is considered a geek and is violently beaten up by fellow students and residents. His family are then subjected to continued abuse and intimidation because they did not fit in. He has a police escort to take him home every afternoon, after school. The family decide to relocate to another borough in London.

10) A deputy head teacher is arrested for alleged having a relationship with a female student. Trial date pending.

11) I hand out resources to my students; a boy has a cut on the back of his neck. I ask him how he got it; he tells me his brother stabbed him.

12) Close to where I lived on Kenworthy Road, in the space of eighteen months there are two fire arms incidents, in which two men were shot dead.

13) A Ghanaian boy breaks down in tears, during a lesson I am teaching on the dangers of carrying a knife. He is upset because his little brother is regularly being bullied by a group of older kids on his estate. He tells me about an incident involving a knife. His parents were at work at the time and he was frustrated and angry with the bullies, he describes how he ran into the kitchen and selected the biggest knife he could find – a bread knife, he then ran outside and confronted the gang, waving the knife about in the air. They soon cleared off.

14) One of my students, wears a knife vest under his shirt. The teaching staff refer to him as a ‘proper G’ – gangster. He turned up one day to my lesson with over two hundred pounds, which he then throws up into the air and shouts out, at the top of his voice “scramble!” Only one boy is brave enough to scramble around on the floor and pick the money up.

It goes on and on and on and on. The problem is there is just so much of it happening all the time that suddenly the unacceptable becomes the acceptable.

The truth is it’s not actually safe walking in Hackney at any time of the day, particularly when the school children are being released from school, this is when the most muggings occur, and it is for this reason that there is always a heavy police presence outside all of the schools and in particularly on Mare Street, near MacDonald’s, where a lot of the trouble seems to escalate. It’s a terrible admission on Jacqui Smith’s part, especially when she is responsible for reducing crime on our streets.

Since Labour has been in power they have failed to tackle the issue of childhood poverty. The gap between the rich and the poorest in our country has actually widened significantly and it these issues that have contributed to the sharp rise of incidents of violent crime committed by teenagers. Over the course of the last two and a half years I have been involved with three different schools in Hackney. I can list a catalogue of brutal and extreme incidents involving the students, teachers and people living on the neighbouring estates. All of these incidents involve violence, intimidation, murder and rape. I do not exaggerate, some of the stories you hear in Hackney are truly shocking.

The truth is that there are some parts of Britain that are no-go areas. These are areas where there is a total break-down of decent values, these places are run by violent gangs, who intimidate the local community, this is why people never come forward as witnesses to crimes, because they know what the consequences will be – they’re scared. There are twenty two different gangs in Hackney and because many of the children have either absent parents or parents that are simply incapable of looking after them, the kids turn to the gangs for support and for protection against other rival gangs etc …

Diane Abbott (MP for Hackney area) has recently come out and said that she would like to invite Jacqui Smith to go on a late night walk through Hackney. Okay, will that be a nice little meander down murder mile, where rival gangs frequently park their cars up, across from each other and have regular shoot outs?  There is so much going on in Hackney, that doesn’t reach the national press, perhaps it should. I think that perhaps Diane will take Jacqui to leafy, middle class, predominately media-ville Church Street, in Stoke Newington, they can both go to one of the cosmopolitan bars/restaurants there and have a leisurely Frappuccino. They will be safe there, or will they? I did meet a police officer, last year, who told me that his colleagues stopped and searched a teenage boy, on a bike, on Church Street; he only had a shotgun in his rucksack. He was drug runner apparently, the gangs like them young, something to do with the age of criminal responsibility. I don’t know.

The schools ARE doing the best they can to pick up the pieces, created by dysfunctional chaotic families. These families have no idea how to look after vulnerable kids. At the school I work at we have enrichment activities after school, homework clubs, sport activities, film clubs, literacy, numeracy clubs etc … So, that keeps them out of trouble for a further two hours and away from the dangers and temptations of living on the estates. They get a lot of intervention, in the form of behaviour mentors, educational psychologists, councillors. At the end of day there is only so much a school can do, we’re not social workers, or parents, we’re teachers, and this is why so many teachers get burnt out so quickly – teachers are trying hard to patch these kids up, trying to engage with them, teach them, show them a better, more worthwhile alternative.

*This woman is such a dedicated teacher, and I am full of admiration for her. She does the job because she loves some of the kids, she worries about them, it’s an unselfish labour of love.


  1. Cry me a river. Of course if you let people run amok, they will. Britains have been trained through generations to behave themselves but all those muslims, and I have no doubt at least 90% of these problem people are muslims, have been trained to riot, destroy, rob, murder. These people come from societies where a common form of mayhem is to stuff a burning tire over someones shoulders.

    I don’t see ONE WORD in all this describing the steps being taken to rectify this mess you folks have gotten yourselves into with your laxness.

    Start doing something about it instead of crying over spilt milk. You spilled it.

  2. ‘Poverty is the cause’ what nonsense. No one starves in the UK (unless you’re a feeble pensioner)and we’ve been a lot poorer than these people in the past. We just had good ethical standards and family bonds.

    Lawlessness begets poverty – remember that.

    The left wing refuse to accept this and prefer to lie about it in order to further their spiteful agenda of wealth redistribution against those who dare to think and take care of themselves. The left wing idealists have brought about this situation and are determined to drag us ALL down.

  3. Cheezy – I would go back further than the 80’s; this wasn’t Thatchers doing (however much people like to blame her for all ills) she was for the ‘common market’ but when she realised it was a sham she tried to get us out and did quite a good job of negotiating the cap which Bliar just threw away. I would say the effective loss of border control started with Ted Heath (what a mistake he was) and the liberalism towards crime and punishment started by Roy Jenkins in the late 50’s early 60’s. Jenkins was, like Heath, pro-Europe and “When Labour returned to power he was made Home Secretary again, serving from 1974 to 1976. In this period he undermined his previous liberal credentials to some extent by pushing through the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act, which, among other things, extended the length of time suspects could be held in custody and instituted exclusion orders.” So you see the left-leaning cultural Marxism which makes it a crime to tell the wrong sort of joke but does sod all about muggings and burglary, and seeks to get rid of habeus corpus, really started long before Thatcher.

  4. “Diane Abbott (MP for Hackney area) has recently come out and said that she would like to invite Jacqui Smith to go on a late night walk through Hackney.”

    Presumably this is because Abbott doesn’t want to walk around Hackney at night all by herself!

    I think you’re absolutely correct in saying Labour hasn’t done enough to tackle childhood poverty and the associated crime & violence that it helps to foster. But equally, it’s surely not all the present government’s doing – as others have mentioned, I think the seeds of this situation were mainly sowed during the 80s.

  5. I think it depends where in Hackney – Ive got friends who live there and they haven’t complained about walking at night.

  6. Geoff, I’m not sure how long ago you used to visit Hackney, as I have too, but I can tell you I have no fear in walking about Cambridge at any time of day or night, are you suggesting that there are comparisons there with Hackney?
    You are fortunate that your daughter goes to one of the finest and most highly regarded sixth form schools in the country, does it have daily police guards when she leaves to protect her from the kind of violence which has been witnessed by this teacher? Would you send her to such a school?

  7. Steven_L

    “The teaching staff refer to him as a ‘proper G’ …”

    Says it all really. If I ever have kids they’re going to an all white school in a rural area, and I don’t care how racist that sounds, because it is racist, but who would want their kids stabbed by a load of scumbag foreigners in Hackney?

  8. Don’t think I’ve ever walked in Hackney, Ellee.

  9. A brave post, Ellee. I identify with much of what this teacher says and this is not a new thing. It’s not Jacqui Smith’s or “Labour’s” fault for it has been going on for decades. It began with the divisions created by Thatcher.

  10. Isn’t this a tragic post? However is this problem going to be solved? I wonder how the teacher manages to stay on so she must indeed be truly dedicated.

    I shared a flat in London with a teacher in 1960 and she was terrified of her students pulling knives in class then. However I don’t think the drug culture was prevalent in those days.

  11. fled from places like hackney

    “Ah yes, of course it must be Labour’s fault- was it not Thatcher who said that “there is no such thing as society?…?!”

    Ok. Now you’ve tested the ‘we’re all one society, no one lifestyle is less valid than any other’ concept to destruction, what now?

  12. “and is it Sally that is the supermum – would you?”

    I always make myself feel safe.. else i would never go anywhere or do anything. I just see everything as stories unless it actually involves me personally.

  13. It’s a mad world we live in.
    It was adequately named the ‘concrete jungle’

    But street violence & gang crime is nothing new, after all viking raids and football hooliganism are in our blood and part of our culture.

    But I think in the land of plenty, where there is more opportunity to do or BE more, and sometimes we are spoilt for choice what to do or what to buy (if you can afford it, or can get credit) – I guess some still het their kicks from violence, and look for thrills and spills in the most ‘bizarre’ ways.

    The penalties are just not high enough, and doing time or having to wear a tag are badges of honour among some social groups. Perhaps we should go back to an ‘eye for an eye’ if you break someones arm you get your arm broken and six months inside. If you bottle someone, you get bottled in the face and 12 months inside. And if you stab someone, you are forced to donate a kidney or lung, or half your liver to supply the long waiting list – and get 10 years inside to boot.

    If you rob or mug someone, you are stripped naked and thrown into solitary confinement for at least 2 years. Crime is NO joke, and violent crime should not go unpunished.

    And if you shoot someone, you can be used as an aunt sally at the village fair for a year, as a dart board in a working man’s club, and for target practice by the british forces and the Taliban in afghanistan. Yeah!

  14. A fine post, one for my Quality Post. Jacqie Smith made a blooper there, especially as her minder travels with her.

  15. Kat – the undeniable fact is that immigration has played an enormous part in this.

    On the subject of immigration y’all (and at the risk of being teased by Ellee – don’t worry it’s the little bro) then I recommend listening to this clip from a recorded debate on this page.

  16. Meral Ece

    I have just read your piece about this, and agree 100%. My own 16 year old goes to Stoke Newington school,and he and his friends tell me that there are so many kids now in gangs, and carrying knives, that they have to be very careful not to walk around alone after school, or upset anyone. Diane Abbott, I’m afraid has rather lost touch of whats going in the borough she’s represented for 20 odd years. Her own son goes to the private City of London boys school, so is not exposed to all this.
    She should get off the sofa, out of the TV studio’s and get out and visit some of these areas in Hackney, and get Jacqui Smith along, out of her limo to see for themselves whats happening on our streets

  17. I don’t feel that safe when walking in my town, let alone walking in Hackney.

    Teachers are teachers, not social workers. Parents really need to take more responsibility but problem being we aren;t talking about very young children here. These are youth/adults who do know right from wrong. Another problem are the judges and the politicians. They are allowing them to get away with everything and letting them back on to the streets.

  18. Is this a first – a honest opinion from a politician? There used o be an excellent blog about Hackney his new blog is worth a read too – follow the link on his old blog. My last girlfriend was born and bought up in Hackney and her sister still lives there – didn’t seem a lot worse than central Cambridge to me when I used to stay up there.

  19. Sympathising with the troubles in Kenya doesn’t help, allowing people a chance to start somewhere else does. Smacks of “Not in my Back Yard”, and I am sure that you would find plenty of white gang member after all – or would you presume that they were all from Eastern Europe?
    Ellee’s post highlights some genuine issues – turning it into a rant about immigration is unhelpful to say the least.

  20. Kat, I think that one reference to 1986 was the only dated incident, the others are more recent.

  21. So what’s your answer – bring back the cane?

  22. Good suggestion Ellee.

    I have to agree with CU about immigration and that comment from Anon teacher really brings it home. This little island simply cannot absorb so much of the worlds people and maintain it’s culture – CU is right and I can only sympathise with teachers left to mop up this stupid decision.

    Full Thatcher Q: “I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

    Prime minister Margaret Thatcher, talking to Women’s Own magazine, October 31 1987

    I think included in that “obligation” would be NOT to drop onto our shores and expect to be housed, warmed, fed and entertained whilst their children run riot as they always have done at ‘home’, wherever that might be.

    I sympathise with the troubles in Kenya, they are horrific, but gathering a random bunch from that country and dropping them in Tunbridge Wells (in numbers that challenge the existing population) would be a disaster. The people of Tunbridge Wells don’t deserve that.

  23. Ah yes, of course it must be Labour’s fault- was it not Thatcher who said that “there is no such thing as society”…?!

    Its a terrible tale from the teacher, although slightly weakened by relying on some stories from 20 years ago – if one were to trawl the news archives from that far back I imagine skeletons could be unearthed everywhere.

  24. Oh lord, what a catalogue of tragedy.

  25. Anonymous Teacher from Hackney Free School

    I think CityUnslicker’s comments are all correct.

    A significant amount of students are from abroad and the school is struggling to meet all of their needs and engage them in the curriculum. They can’t access it in the way an English speaking student can, because many of them speak very little English. Also their parents have unrealistic expectations of them. One boy from the Congo was told by his mother if he did not get five A-C’s, she was going to send him back to the Congo. She wanted her son to work towards being a lawyer. The reality was he was about three years behind academically, because he had missed so much schooling in Africa.

  26. hmm..not sure about the gap between rich and poor as a simple example.

    The very rich have become much richer, leaving everyone else relatively poorer; but these are all silly statistics to play with.

    Of far more import is the huge influx of emmigration of families to whom violence and such is a part of life. This is very different from british culture where guns and even knives have been seen as crossing the line for generations. Refugees and others from somalia etc just are’nt going to get this.

    To be fair to the police, they are just having to deal with this situation and have been ill-prepared given the huge scale of immigration to places such as Hackney.

    I have walked the streets of Hackney and places at night and it just makes me glad I have flown to the suburbs where the problems are of a lesser order.

  27. Pip, I think Jaqui Smith should be based at this school for a month at least to learn first hand about the area and how best these families can be helped, how to tackle the violent crime.

  28. Excellent post Ellee – you are on top form!

    “These families have no idea how to look after vulnerable kids.”

    – but would you Ellee? and is it Sally that is the supermum – would you? If I was forced to live in such a grim area and my children were surrounded by armed gangs who could bully/threaten and kill us all then I’m sure I wouldn’t know how to stand up to them. How on earth could a parent do that without some supportive social structure? A structure/culture that, unfortunately, has been compromised by succesive governments. I was so sad to hear on the radio that metal detectors are being introduced into some schools. And in 1950 the most wanted present for boys was probably a penknife.


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