SMOKE: Honour Among Thieves

Originally published: 3 August 2004

Nine members of a Nottingham gang have been sentenced to life imprisonment after they shot and killed a man in a botched revenge attack.

Four of the members had been robbed of cellphones and gold chains by a rival gang in Sheffield earlier in the day and they raced back home to Nottingham to fetch five pals, before driving off to seek revenge.

A 42-year old jobless dude was standing in the doorway of a nightclub when the gang drove up and one of them stuck a sawn-off shotgun out of the window and pumped a round into the guy, fatally wounding him.

Police apparently said that it looked as though the gang killed the guy to save face amongst other gangsters and it was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What makes the case unusual is that only one of the nine men pulled the trigger, yet all of them have been convicted of the murder and been given life sentences.

None of the other eight gangsters ratted on their pal and as such all of them had to take the fall - and you don't fall much harder than life in a hard-ass prison.

It's a pretty big decision to make if you're one of the eight - you're kissing your life goodbye to protect someone else, and even though you may have loyalty to someone life in prison must be a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

I could understand if there were only two guys - then it becomes a straight you or me scenario. But for eight guys to choose to spend the next 20 years in jail is something akin to a miracle, because there's usually at least one guy who has a wife or girlfriend who forbids it.

That's the thing, you see - if you're a single guy you can easily make a decision to remain loyal to a close buddy. But when you're married - or have a serious girlfriend, or kids - there's no way on earth you better half would allow you to take the fall if it wasn't you who pulled the trigger.

I believe it's a fundamental difference between men and women - women believe they understand the importance of a male bond, but they will always be ruled by practicality in the end.

In other words - their argument will be that you have a duty to them and your family, especially when the guy you are sticking up for is a low-life.

But men see things differently - we can rationalise that our wives and children need us and that by going to prison for life we will effectively end all that (very few women are going to stick around for 20 years - they also have lives to live), but in the end loyalty is our common bond no matter how impractical it may be.

I'm not saying women don't have loyalty - but for the most part I don't think they have the sort of loyalty that would allow eight of them to go to prison for someone else.

I'll bet there were all sorts of deals from the prosecution offering drastically reduced sentences to any of the nine who would give up the shooter, which makes the deafening silence all the more impressive.

Or does it? It's not like it's a case of witness protection if you rat on your mate - the eight non-shooters were all accessories to the crime and thus would have to be prosecuted, even if they had cut a deal.

So if you're the bloke who snitches your life won't be worth two cents the next day and no matter how well protected you are in prison someone will always get to you eventually with a sharpened toothbrush.

Even if you survived prison you would have nowhere to go once you got out and you can bet your last dole cheque someone will be waiting for you with a pillow and a snubnose.

Besides - if you're doing things like driving around killing innocent people your life can't exactly be a laugh-a-minute barrel of merriment, and you may find life in prison a bowl of roses in comparison to the real thing.

By being part of nine mates who stuck up for each other nobody is going to mess with you inside either - whole heapa respek, yo. You'll have your mates with you, the admiration of peers, more drugs than you can handle and no doubt your pick of the finest fresh young ass.

It ain't the Ritz, but it ain't bad.

And justice has been served. If one of the nine had managed to cut a deal and get off scot free it wouldn't be fair. Through their loyalty to one another those nine men have ensured that they have removed themselves from a society they obviously aren't particularly compatible with, and Nottingham can only be a better place for it.

All's well, that ends well.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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