December 13 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 4, 2013
Almost 1,000 children stood together yesterday with their hands on their hearts and pledged never to carry a knife.
The emotional ceremony took place at Tendring Technology College in Thorpe-le-Soken – the school that teenager Jay Whiston attended prior to his death.
Jay was stabbed at a house party in Colchester last summer and died in hospital shortly after.
The 17-year-old had been studying A-levels in law and business studies at the college at the time of his death and it was his mother, Caroline Shearer, that led the 950-strong crowd in their pledge on the main playground.
Since the tragic events of last year, Mrs Shearer has formed a charity called Only Cowards Carry with the aim of educating young people about the dangers of violent crime and, ultimately, to stop them from carrying knives or other weapons.
The campaign has gathered momentum and over the next few months charity members are due to visit almost 100 schools in north Essex to promote their message.
Yesterday’s ceremony – held in sight of a raised Only Cowards Carry flag – marked the start of this series of visits, an occasion that left Mrs Shearer moved.
She said: “It’s an emotional day because we are starting to make a difference. The pledge is a way of bringing kids together and making them buy into an important initiative. We are hoping that all the schools we visit will follow suit and take a pledge.
“The past year has been really tough emotionally for us all but channelling that negative energy into doing something positive has been worthwhile as we know that already we are making a difference.
“Parents and young people have contacted us to tell us their stories about how Jay’s death has helped change minds about carrying a knife. I’ve also had primary school children come to me and ask me to teach them how to persuade their siblings and peers not to carry a weapon.”
According to Mrs Shearer, the words spoken in the pledge were thought up by a group of children from the college in conjunction with the charity, which plans to produce a plastic credit card with the pledge written on it for every child to keep.
Assistant principal at the college, Gail Lewis, said the ceremony was a “solemn and dignified affair”.
She added: “The whole school was touched by what happened to Jay and we wholeheartedly support the work of Mrs Shearer’s charity. We want every child to know about the dangers of carrying knives and to know that they will be excluded if they are caught doing so.”
Investigations into Jay’s death have so far led to a number of people being charged with various offences.
An 18-year-old man from Colchester is currently in custody and is due to face trial for Jay’s murder at Chelmsford Crown Court in January.
In addition, two men, also from Colchester, have been charged with one count each of perverting the course of justice. Two 18-year-old men, both from Colchester, currently face charges of witness intimidation while another 18-year-old Colchester man has been charged with affray. An 18-year-old woman from Clacton has also been charged with encouraging the commission of witness intimidation.