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But the buzz never lasted more than a minute

Posted on 05 August 2010

But the buzz never lasted more than a minute.” He was hooked.Selling drugs was now a necessity – a way to finance his habit – and he was obliged to supplement his income through burglaries and armed robberies. Within two years, he had attended nine drugs-related funerals.Crack marked a turning-point, says Barrington, his two gold teeth glinting. I thought: this is the life for me.”From then on, the only way was down. He became a dealer himself, earning more than pounds 1,000-a-week and entering a world where disputes were often settled with a 9mm automatic A friend was gunned down at his side in a nightclub. Instead, as he cast around for male role models, he alighted on a group of older men who wore sharp suits, drove flash cars and had plenty of money to burn.They sold drugs, and also did a bit of pimping on the side Barrington was fascinated by them “They drank champagne like it was Coca Cola,” he says. “I used to sit in gambling dens until 3am, hanging on their every word. One day, they asked me to pick up a parcel and deliver it to an address They gave me pounds 80 for half an hour’s work It was more than I could make in a week as an apprentice.

The riskier it was, the higher your ratings.”So a pattern of petty crime was established early on, Barrington explains, twisting a short dreadlock between finger and thumb. Had there been a father around to take him in hand, he speculates, an older brother even, perhaps events would have followed a different course. We’d spent the whole of our time at school trying to prove ourselves, whether by beating someone up, or nicking their dinner money, or bunking off school to go shoplifting. Despite inauspicious family circumstances – an absent father, a mother focused on day-to-day survival – he left school with a few GCEs and found two apprenticeships, firstly as a chef, and then as an electrical repair man.But the lads he hung around with on the Mozart Estate were not impressed.

“They didn’t want to know about your work,” he said, reviewing his misspent youth on the eve of the drugs debate “The only thing that they were interested in was cred. He knows that they are prey to the same malign influences that also sent him crashing off the rails in the early Eighties.There had been a time when it seemed that Barrington might rise above his environment. It is here that the estate’s most difficult youngsters end up, expelled from school and kicked out of other youth clubs.The challenge is to motivate these largely Afro-Caribbean children – to funnel their energies into something positive – and Barrington, now a youth worker himself, knows how formidable a task that is. For nearly two decades, the project has offered a pinprick of hope in a neighbourhood scarred by poverty and neglect. He was one of them.
Barrington spent 15 years in a spiral of crime, prison and drug addiction Somehow, against the odds, he came out the other end.

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