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New art trail in Runcorn raises awareness of loan shark dangers

Seven striking shark murals have been installed around Phoenix Park, Runcorn, as part of a new outdoor art trail to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.

The murals, which have been painted on a variety of surfaces, depict a range of sharks, including the Great White, Hammerhead, Basking and the Loan Shark.

The project is a collaboration between Creative Health Initiatives (CHI), the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), Cheshire Constabulary and Halton Borough Council.

The new collection of stunning artworks have been created by young people from the Halton community, with support from local graffiti artist, Alex Taylor.

Families are encouraged to get involved in the #SharksInPhoenixPark art trail competition which launched over the weekend on Saturday, May 21.

Seven different sharks have been installed at seven different points across the park for lucky hunters to encounter.

Visitors to the park are invited to explore the area and follow clues by matching names to the right numbers to discover the sharks’ locations.

Along their journey, they can complete a puzzle on their entry form to be entered into a price draw with prizes up for grabs including restaurant and shopping vouchers.

Competition entry forms are available from CHI Community Café located at Phoenix Park, between Castlefields and Windmill Hill, or visit the Stop Loan Sharks website to download an electronic copy.

Forms must be completed and returned to the café by 4pm on Thursday, 30th June. You can also email them directly to the Stop Loan Sharks team at partner@stoploansharks.gov.uk.

A loan shark is someone who lends money illegally without proper authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Loan sharks are illegal, immoral and unauthorised. These criminals prey on the most vulnerable in society, charging extortionate interest on loans and using intimidation and violence to pressure their victims into paying.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is a dedicated team of specialists that are leading the fight against loan sharks and supporting their victims. They have helped fund the project using thousands of pounds of criminals’ ill-gotten gains.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable people and blight our communities.

“They trap their victims into spiralling levels of debt and in the more extreme cases will use intimidation, threats and even violence to force them to pay up.

“This project sends out a strong message that loan sharks are not welcome in Halton and educates the public on how to protect themselves from this predatory crime.

“It also increases awareness in the community and allows us to build relationships with residents, providing them with free information about safer ways of borrowing money through Halton Credit Union. This helps us put loan sharks out of business for good.”

Phil Thornton, CHI Director added: “We were delighted to be awarded funding from the IMLT to create this fun and interactive educational art trail for families on the subject of illegal money lending.

“Our café is in an area where loan sharks are known to operate and this project makes a difference to our community by educating people about the dangers of illegal lending and where to go for support.”

Don’t forget to share your photos on social media using the hashtag #SharksInPhoenixPark

More information about the competition can be found here.

Anyone with concerns about illegal money lending can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.