Anti-gun crime movement may close after loss of state funding

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's most successful anti-gun crime projects is in danger of closure after the Home Office refused to continue its funding.

The Don't Trigger project, which has been acclaimed by senior politicians and the police, was supported last year by a £450,000 grant from the Home Office. But when the group running the project applied for a renewed grant and extra money for an anti-knife crime initiative they were turned down by the Home Office minister Vernon Coaker, who said the money could be better used elsewhere.

The decision has triggered a row within the Cabinet and has provoked anger among victim support groups, as the campaign is backed by more than 100 mothers of gun-crime victims.

Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, whose south London constituency of Peckham is among those badly affected by gun crime, said she was "shocked and saddened" by the refusal to fund the Don't Trigger project this year. She said she was "concerned that the decision to withdraw this funding will have wide implications".

Ms Harman has taken up the issue with the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, and has written to Mr Coaker, demanding a detailed breakdown of how he reached the decision to end the project's funding.

Ministers had praised Don't Trigger, based in Brixton, as one of the most successful community initiatives. Mr Coaker attended the Leicester Square premiere this year of the campaign's film, Hip Hop Opera.

But the Home Office refused the application for almost £700,000, claiming the campaign should use music and videos it had already produced. It said that while the group had developed a "valuable package of anti-gun crime materials", public money would be better spent elsewhere.

Urban Concepts, the group behind Don't Trigger, had wanted to use a large chunk of the new funding to launch a grassroots, anti-knife crime project. It laid out plans last November to make a version of the film Twelve Angry Men. The adaptation, to be called Twelve Angry Teenagers, was to examine why young people carry knives, and spread the message: "One knife can take a life."

In a refusal letter, Mr Coaker said: "Let me assure you that this decision has not been taken lightly and does not in any way detract from what Urban Concepts has achieved."

Raymond Stevenson, head of Urban Concepts, said: "Everyone involved with Don't Trigger was totally shocked by the decision to stop our funding, especially as we had been held up as a great example of a grass-roots project. The Government have asked the community to come forward and get involved in efforts to cut gun and knife crime, and that's exactly what we are doing. Without the funding, we are finished."

He said the campaign would have been more effective than the Government's attempts to cut gun and knife crime. "There is a real turn-off factor among young people when they know a message comes from the Government," he said. "Our message is so effective because people in the community know us, and respect the work we do."

Michelle Forbes, whose son Leon was shot dead outside her home in Clapham in 2003, said: "I don't know how they can look victims' families in the eye after a decision to turn down such a successful community-based project like this one. I've seen the work they do uniting the families of victims like myself with young people who are involved in gun crime, and I've seen the amazing response they have achieved on such a small budget."

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