Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lives Do Turn Around

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lives Do Turn Around

Article excerpt

Byline: By Hannah Davies

Dominique was a confused 14-year-old when she decided to try shoplifting.

Painfully shy and frustrated by her inability to read because of dyslexia, she was in despair.

She felt the frustration bubbling up as if she was going to explode, when in 2001 she decided on a whim to steal some make-up from a shop.

Dominique, of Leam Lane, Gateshead, was petrified when she was caught leaving the shop and taken away by police. She was later convicted of the crime, which stayed on her record until this year.

Now an erudite and confident young woman of 18 living with an aunt, she is very different from the teenager who decided to steal for something to do. She has four sisters aged 22, 19, eight and six and a 13-year-old brother.

Recalling the day she was caught shoplifting she says: "I didn't really think about it. It was just something I was trying out really ( what I wasn't expecting was to get arrested.

"It was horrible. I was locked up for hours, was prosecuted and I was sent to the young offenders' programme. I think it was just something I thought I would try. It was my first and my last time. It stayed on my record until I was 18.

"If I had done it again things would have got a lot more serious and I'd have a criminal record."

Through the young offenders' programme Dominique was put in touch with the Northumbria Coalition Against Crime's Odysseus mentoring project.

"I thought the mentoring would be a good thing to do," she says. "I thought I'd get more confidence and it would be someone else to talk to other than friends and family."

Her mentor was to be Cheryl Harvey, 32, a personnel manager with Chester-le-Street District Council in County Durham, who decided to join the scheme after she receiving a leaflet at work.

She wanted to give something back and thought that the mentoring scheme would be ideal for her.

The training given to mentors is a minimum of 30 hours which Cheryl, who lives in Washington with her partner Michael Irving, did weekly in four-hour sessions.

She says: "We covered a whole range of issues in the training from the youth justice system through to drugs awareness and different ways of communication, like body language.

"My first experience as a mentor was with another girl, not Dominique, but that wasn't very successful. She didn't really think the process was right for her.

"Dominique was the next person. I was nervous before I met her, partly I think because the first person hadn't been successful and I wasn't sure if it was me that was the problem.

"But right from the first time we met we got on well, although she was very shy at first.

"We would mainly just meet up and chat. We would go out for food or something, but we went to the cinema a couple of times and went to Beamish, which was something we both really enjoyed. …

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