A reformed gangster who once had a £400 a day heroin and crack habit is to speak to local school pupils about the consequences of taking drugs and carrying a knife.
Paul Hannaford had dreams of playing for West Ham as a child but after experimenting with cannabis he moved onto harder drugs and a life of crime.
At 15 he was carrying a knuckle duster and a large knife and ended up behind bars after getting involved with gangs.
After taking an estimated £1m worth of drugs and committing around 5,000 crimes, serving jail terms on 14 occasions, Paul went to rehab and eventually found a new life giving hard-hitting talks to schoolchildren.
In the past seven years he has spoken to around 300,000 pupils and on Friday he will be talking to pupils at Mirfield Free Grammar.
His talks focus on the reality of gang life. Four of his fellow gang members died of drugs overdoses, another four have severe mental health issues and one remains in prison for stabbing a man to death.
Paul also reveals that he was stabbed on seven occasions and nearly lost his leg due to injecting heroin.
Mirfield Free Grammar principal Ms Hayley Clacy has told parents that the aim of the talk was to provide guidance to pupils.
In a letter to parents she said: “As you will be aware from several reports in both the national and local media over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of incidents relating to knife crime and gangs.
“Currently schools across Kirklees are working together with police and other organisations to ensure we are all providing high quality information and guidance to our students on these subjects.
“Whilst this may not directly affect our students, we do not shy away from supporting them to understand this difficult topic and the risks associated with it.”
She said that Paul Hannaford would be delivering assemblies to students in Years 8, 9 and 10 followed by workshops for some smaller groups of students.
Ms Clacy added: “Paul travels all over the country each year working with around 50,000 children and young adults in a range of settings including primary and secondary schools, youth centres and young offenders’ institutes.
“He has also worked with professional football clubs to support their ‘football in the community’ projects.
“Paul tries to give his audience a real-life insight into drug addiction, alcohol, gang life, gun and knife crime, prison life, self-harm and bullying.
“He has delivered this to many local schools and in each case the students were truly inspired.”
Ms Clacy reassured parents that Paul’s presentation would be “age-appropriate, but it does deal with difficult themes and will help our students to be aware of the reality of such issues, so they can make an informed decision about the choices they may make in life and the dangers they may face.
“We know that students in other local schools have found Paul’s assemblies interesting and thought provoking, however, if you have any concerns about your son/daughter attending this event please contact your child’s Achievement Co-ordinator or Mr Morris, Vice Principal before Friday to discuss this further.”
On Paul Hannaford’s website there are many testimonials from young people who have heard his talks.
One young man, Danny, said: “Wow, that workshop was by far the best talk we have ever had on drugs and knife crime. At first I thought it would be like the ones we usually get but after seeing all your wounds and hearing your life story it has shocked us all. You have really woken us all up.”