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Street Pastors will guide and care for late night revellers

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Christian group will offer those leaving pubs and clubs a prayer and someone to talk to from next year

PEOPLE walking out of nightclubs and pubs in Newbury will soon be greeted by Street Pastors – a Christian group offering them a prayer, someone to talk to, or possibly just flip-flops and a lollipop.

The group of 20-odd volunteers – who are being coordinated by an inter-church group, Christians Together in Newbury – will take to the streets on Friday nights, starting early next year.

The scheme was pioneered in London in January 2003 by Rev Les Isaac and claims remarkable results, including a 25 per cent drop in crime in some areas where teams have been working.

There are currently more than 9,000 Street Pastors working across the country.

Under the scheme, groups of volunteers will go out into the town centre late at night to engage with people coming out of clubs and bars, sometimes to deal with anti-social behaviour, but at other times just to offer someone to talk to.

Yesterday, a Street Pastor who works in Basingstoke, Malcolm Murray, said that the volunteers will fill a gap left by the police and door staff at clubs: “Often what we will do is just be there to defuse situations before they get out of control, or we may just engage with people and talk to them if they need it.

“If we see girls in high-heels struggling to walk, we may give them flip-flops to make it easier to get home, or, if someone wants us to, we will offer a prayer for them.”

Mr Murray, who has a high-flying job buying and selling companies as group director of BCMS Corporate, said that he did not believe the Street Pastors were coming to Newbury because it had a particularly bad problem with anti-social behaviour, despite an incident earlier this year when youths evicted from Liquid Nightclub fought pitched battles with police.

Mr Murray said: “I don't think it is the case that there are specific problems in Newbury, or that it is a violent place to go out, but in a sense, the Street Pastors are just there to form another link in the chain that makes the town centre safe.”

Newbury police constable Pete Sutherland, of the Newbury Neighbourhood Policing Team, said he welcomed the help from the group: “I see them as another asset that is available to us, we have looked at this (Street Pastor schemes) in other areas, and it works.

“In certain situations they can be an extra pair of hands for the police.”

His views were backed up by the manager of Fever nightclub, Jerry Wilkinson, who said: “Anything that increases the communication out on the street has got to be a good thing.

“A lot of the negative stuff that happens is low-level, but the police still have to attend. If someone has fallen over, or has had an argument with their friends, this can take up resources that could have been utilised elsewhere.”

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