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A white 22-year-old youth called Darren, who lives in a small Lincolnshire town, told me that his gang waited months to take revenge on a middleaged neighbour who'd objected to one of them sitting on his garden wall.When the boy refused to move, the man shoved him off.What forces have put boys like him in charge of our streets? Despite being barely literate, Tuggy Tug was eloquent about the reasons he'd turned to crime.Indeed, his words provided a harrowing insight into why increasing numbers of boys are more likely to do a mugging than a piece of homework.After five years, though, he planned to go 'legit', buy a house in the suburbs and play golf all day.Whatever our opinion of Tuggy Tug, his ambition stands as a rebuke.White boys from low-income families perform worst: 63 per cent are unable to read and write properly at 14 (compared with 43 per cent of white girls from a similar background).

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He is already set on the path of social deprivation: prison, an early death or, at best, a lifetime on benefits. 'Nothing frightens people more - and when that violence takes place in a group setting, it is all the more shocking.' Nine months ago, I started investigating why so many boys are turning into feared gang members and criminals.

What happens in school smashes their lives, leaving them antisocial-semi- criminal and dependant on welfare.

Which means we, the taxpayers, have to pay astronomical sums to keep fit young men idle.

Tuggy Tug's chances of having a decent childhood, it became clear, had been weighted against him from the start.

As a black boy from a low-income Caribbean background, he belongs to one of the two categories most likely to fail at school and least likely to break out of poverty.

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