Ex-gang members, youth workers, legal experts and victims all spoke out at the University of Hertfordshire about how knife crime affects people’s lives.

At the Lives not Knives event on March 26, young people at the university heard several perspectives on how knife violent crime blights lives.

Mark Pearce and Gary Moore from Herts Police offered advice on first aid for traumatic injuries, such as knife wounds, while legal expert Peter Shaw QC discussed the concept of joint enterprise.

This can mean that just by being present during a violent crime, you can be convicted even if you took no part in the crime. Formerly involved in violent crime, Ben Smith told his personal story of regret, and talked about the reality of prison and how he has now moved forward with his life.

Gavin McKenna from Reach Every Generation spoke about his previous gang affiliation and how he now works with young people to instigate change and empower them through training and coaching.

Working with the same organisation, Darren Awolesi shared how a gunshot injury changed his life forever and how he uses his experiences to educate young people and encourage them to make positive choices.

The evening was brought to a powerful and poignant close by Tracey and Brooke Hanson from The Josh Hanson Trust.

Tracey’s son, Josh, was murdered in an unprovoked knife attack in 2015.

Tracey spoke from the heart about losing a child to knife crime and the devastating effect that this has had on her family.

Brooke, Josh’s sister, described the close relationship that she had with her brother and the grief that his murder has left behind.

The event was the first of several planned by Herts Police’s Children and Young Persons Team, aiming to make young people in Hertfordshire aware of the terrible consequences of getting involved with gangs and violent crime.

Herts Sports Partnership and YC Herts were also there to offer activities to get involved with.

Sergeant Helen Croughton, from the Gangs and Schools team, thanked the speakers and said: “The event enabled young people to hear first-hand about the reality of gang affiliation and associated criminality and the devastating impact this can have.

“It encouraged young people to think about the choices they are making and empowered them to make change.

“The young people had the opportunity after the event to speak with the presenters personally and many of them reached out immediately.

The event comes as part of wider efforts to tackle knife crime and serious youth crime countywide.

Anyone who is concerned about gang or knife crime can call the Hertfordshire Constabulary non-emergency number 101. Young people who need help and advice about these issues can visit: www.herts.police.uk/cyp.