Martial arts crime prevention project praised by police

Paul Otley hopes his crime prevention scheme will soon go nationwide.
Paul Otley hopes his crime prevention scheme will soon go nationwide.

A martial arts instructor from Cromford is hoping to see his programme for helping young tearaways avoid a life of crime go nationwide after winning support from Scotland Yard.

Paul Otley, 42, and his Underdogs programme have been attracting high-level attention for their successes with probation services in the Lincolnshire area.

He was recently commended by senior police officers for the effect his work had in keeping young people off pathways into organised crime.

Paul said: “Gangs are recruiting people at a vulnerable age, when they’re hanging around on street corners.

“Those career criminals become idols, when what they need is someone else to look up to, in a different environment, and the lifeskills to stand up for themselves.”

The idea came about through Paul’s background as a martial arts instructor, working with criminal justice institutions on conflict management techniques.

Paul said: “I thought it could work with ages 13-17, when it’s mostly minor infringements but these are kids expected to fail by society.

“That’s where the name Underdogs comes from, they believe they’re being disrespected before they even do anything.”

Paul now recruits young people straight off the street or through youth centres, and offers free martial arts training, education courses, life coaching and links to employment and apprenticeships.

He said: “I offer them a choice, and a challenge, and they gain the control and discipline they need.”

The programme has caught the attention of a Lincolnshire MP and the YMCA who would like to roll it out across the UK.

To keep up to date with its progress, see www.facebook.com/UnderdogsProgramme.