Crash and learn

    Consequences: over the past six months I’ve become very familiar
    with this word.

    Last summer I bought a car. It saved me a lot of time, got me
    places and I enjoyed driving it. But I didn’t have a licence. Long
    before I bought the car I knew about what might go wrong if I got
    caught. I thought to myself as long as I didn’t give the police a
    reason to stop me, then I’d be fine.

    To make sure I wouldn’t get stopped or clamped, I needed a tax
    disc, so I broke into another car. It was at night and no one
    caught me. I didn’t think I’d get in trouble. But I soon learned
    that there were other ways to get found out.

    The car made me feel good and I liked it – but not for long. I had
    a crash, went to court and ended up at the youth offending team
    (Yot) in Hackney, east London for four months after getting a
    referral order from the court.

    The only thing I’d been in trouble with the police before was for
    stealing cereal bars from a corner shop six years ago when I’d got
    a caution. My parents were really upset with me over the car and I
    felt bad for letting them down. I’ve got two sisters and they’ve
    never been in trouble with the law. None of my friends has either
    but I recognised some of the other young people at the Yot from my
    neighbourhood.

    The referral order was frustrating because I wanted to forget about
    the whole event. Coming to the Yot and attending its programmes
    acted as a constant reminder. There would be times when I’d just
    come home from college and instead of being able to relax I’d have
    to attend a Yot programme.

    I’ve had a lot of help from my parents in getting through the last
    four months; they’ve been very supportive. My sentence could have
    been a lot worse. What if someone had died in the crash?

    I’ve learned that what I’ve done has had an effect on a lot of
    people and they don’t even have to be directly involved for it to
    affect them. Just think how your parents would feel if you killed
    someone or yourself doing what I did.

    I could have used the money I bought the car with to take lessons
    and maybe pass my test. Then I wouldn’t have anything to worry
    about – consequences wouldn’t be something I’d be thinking
    about.

    I’ve finished my exams and will be on my summer holidays by the
    time I finish the referral order. I plan to work the whole of the
    summer to pay for driving lessons and eventually pass my test.

    I am going to stay out of trouble because what I did affected so
    many people. I know if I do re-offend, I’ll be looking at a worse
    sentence next time.

    Euan Johnson (not his real name) is a student and a young
    offender.

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