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Mechanic steering young people away from life of crime

SION Mills motor mechanic Andy Patton is a man with the local community very much at heart.

Since the age of 15, when he quit a promising football career with English Premier League’s Aston
Villa to help his mum and elder brother raise their four siblings, there’s been nowhere quite like home for Andy.

The village has been a place to live, work and play for the father of two, for more than 60 years now.

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And in that time, his involvement in the many community activities, from schools to youth groups, neighbourhood watch schemes to policing partnerships and football clubs, his dedication to the community remains undiminished.

His latest role is a volunteer with the Youth Justice Agency, helping to steer young people away from a life of crime.

“I’ve been involved with the young people of his area for a very long time,” explained Andy. “For many years they would have been disaffected.

“They would have got involved with drugs. There was nothing for them. But through various projects down through the years we’ve made this a very different community.”

Becoming a volunteer with the Youth Justice Agency was a natural progression for Andy having worked with local schools, the Policing Community Safety Partnership and parish groups.

“It just fitted with the work I’d been doing,” said Andy. “My role is facilitating reparation work for young people.

“This is where a young person who has been referred by a prosecutor or court to a restorative youth conference, and agrees to undertake maybe 50-60 hours work in the community to repay in kind, if you like, for the crime or damage they’ve done.

“I mostly organise for the young people to carry out work at the Parish Hall, cleaning and polishing floors, maintenance work, helping to set the place up for events and tidying up after,” he explained.

“I’ve also organised clean-up work for them along the Mourne River during the summer time. I wouldn’t ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.

“It’s all about reparation, not humiliation. It’s about building trust, making that young person realise their mistakes, learning to respect their community and the people who live here and helping them build a better future for themselves.”

Donna O’Shea-Murie, is a youth conference co-ordinator with the Youth Justice Agency and works closely with Andy.

“As a volunteer and reparation provider, Andy has a very important part to play in helping to stop young people from going into the criminal justice system.

“And that’s where Andy comes in. He provides the activity for that young person to undertake the reparation which has been agreed.

“We’re very fortunate he has so many contacts in the community and is able to set up work for the young people in this process.”

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 15 Main Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AS