William Eichler 13 February 2020

Knife crime ‘epidemic’ fuelled by cuts, committee says

Cuts to important and life-saving services for vulnerable young people have caused a rise in knife crime, according to a new report.

The report, entitled Our Generation’s Epidemic: Knife Crime, was launched yesterday by members of the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee.

It found that inequality within communities and difference in opportunities provided across the country makes some young people vulnerable to the draw of violence and gangs.

It also said that school exclusion should be the last step in a long line of disciplinary measures, and schools should be held accountable for their exclusions.

Knife crime offences are at their highest in a decade, according to official figures from the Ministry of Justice.

A 2018 UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18 revealed that knife crime was the biggest concern of young people.

The Youth Select Committee urged the Government to develop long-term funding plans of at least five years to develop effective ways of helping and reaching young people at risk of getting involved in knife crime.

They should also ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy, the committee said.

The report also calls on the Government to roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed.

The Government’s position on short term custodial sentences for young people who carry knives should also be ‘clarified’ and the next version of the Serious Violence Strategy should include an increased focus on restorative justice.

Rachel Ojo, chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: ‘The Youth Select Committee are concerned with the Government’s increasingly punitive approach to tackling knife crime.

‘If the Government wishes to confront the fundamental causes of the rise in violent crime amongst young people, it must do more to address and improve the difficult circumstances many young people are facing.’

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, yesterday announced an extra £55.5m of funding to tackle the causes of crime.

A Government spokesperson said: 'The Government is taking urgent action to tackle the scourge of serious violence.

'We are making our communities safer by recruiting 20,000 extra police officers over the next three years, and are investing in Violence Reduction Units and early intervention projects to steer young people away from knife crime.

'We are also changing the law so that police, councils and health authorities are legally required to work together to prevent and tackle serious violence.'

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