On Tuesday 5th March 2019, The Daily Mail newspaper published on its front page the photographs of 27 teenagers, all of whom had been stabbed to death during the last 12 months.
Last year, there were more fatal stabbings since records began with knife crime being at its highest since 2011.
Since The Daily Mail’s publication, the slaughter of young people by stabbing has averaged one per day and, sadly, appears to be continuing with no immediate prospect of these statistics being reduced. While some of the stabbings are in the poorer estates of our cities and are undoubtedly gang-related, no town in this country is now immune from such senseless murders of young people.
In some areas it is almost de rigueur for youths to carry an assortment of bladed weapons for self-protection from dominance and intimidation by rival gangs. These youths have become desensitised to the realities and dangers and act with total impunity.
By their own admission, many have no fear; or any respect for any form of authority, whether it be their parent/s or the police. Their “status” in their own territory is enhanced by the carrying of an offensive weapon or, in an increasing number of cases, a firearm. These lethal weapons enable them to conduct their drug dealing and, by violence and intimidation, coerce other youths to assist them in their illegal activities. Non-compliance in the majority of instances results in yet another teenager being murdered.
What has been so lamentable has been the Government’s response to this nationwide carnage; particularly that of the Prime Minister, Mrs May.
Treating the population as if we are all unintelligent idiots, she stated, “…that it was a mistake to link the knife epidemic with police cuts,…” insisting that, “…there was no direct correlation.”
This is the same incompetent individual who, when she was Home Secretary, prevented the police from addressing the rising incidents of knife crime, by reducing their powers to use Stop and Search to detect young people carrying offensive weapons.
She was too concerned that their actions might offend any members of minority racial groups subjected to these searches. Perhaps Mrs May should ask the bereaved parents of children slaughtered in Brixton and other areas of the country what their views are in regard to Stop and Search – the majority, it appears, are in total favour, provided it is conducted by officers using tact and courtesy.
Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Stevens, repeatedly warned the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary about the continued escalation of violence on the streets of London. He said that he questioned whether Mrs May understood policing and he further criticised her decision to make Stop and Search more bureaucratic. He advocated less political correctness in forces and a return to proper hard-edged policing to strip thugs of their confidence.
He added, “Mrs May hasn’t listened to what’s being going on and it is not good enough.” Later, asked if he thought Mrs May was up to dealing with the knife crisis, Lord Stevens said, “I doubt it.”
In direct contrast to the Prime Minister’s inaction, the present Home Secretary, Mr Sajid Javid, has hosted a “knife crime summit” with senior police officers and has committed to working with the police and has stated that the government has to listen to them when they talk about resources.
Yet again, the Prime Minister interfered and clashed with the Home Secretary when he demanded changes to Stop and Search powers. Mrs May wants these powers restricted to so called “hot spots.” (The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Britain’s second largest Police Force, Mr Dave Thompson, takes a totally different view and has requested “blanket cover” regarding Stop and Search in respect of the whole of Birmingham as the situation there with murders and violent crime is spiralling out of control.)
As I am sure Monday Club members will have read in newspapers and been informed on daily news bulletins, police numbers and resources have continued to fall and, according to the National Audit Office, they have fallen 19% in real terms from 2010-11. Mrs May does not seem to grasp the point that the reduction of over 20,000 police officers has had a dramatic effect on the deterrent and detection capability of our police officers to reduce violent crime on the streets of this country.
Mr John Apter, National Chairman of Police Federation of England and Wales has stated, “policing has been stripped to the bone and the consequences are clear, splashed across our newspapers – children being murdered on our streets. This is the true cost of austerity that we warned of but were ridiculed for doing so. Those consequences have become a reality but still the Prime Minister fails to accept the truth.”
Let us forget the suggestions put forward of having a Knife Crime Tsar and analyse the reality of the current situation.
When he was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the late Sir Robert Mark suggested that the greatest deterrent to committing any crime was the percentage possibility in the mind of the offender at being apprehended.
At present, without quoting figures from individual Constabularies, that certainty of being apprehended is below 10%.
To greatly increase the percentage of crimes being reduced, we should start with the physical presence of more foot patrol officers in our towns to act as a deterrent and their ability to quickly “nip in the bud” any anti-social type of behaviour immediately. Such unlawful behaviour if left unchecked – as it most certainly is currently – inherently leads to the offenders’ “certainty of NOT being apprehended.” Therefore, why would such individuals be deterred from committing even more serious crimes?
Law-abiding members of the public would feel comforted that there is a uniformed police presence in their towns and city centres, whereas in many areas of the country there are currently “no go areas” which have become the territory of the unchecked lawless.
There is no doubt that, if the above suggestion were put to the majority of the population, there would be a resounding vote of approval for the immediate implementation of such resources.
Sadly, if and when the perpetrators of violent crime are placed before our Courts, the judicial system seems to favour the accused rather than consideration for the victim.
Despite the fanfare, when David Cameron was Prime Minister, that knife crime and possession of an offensive weapon would be dealt with robustly and harshly by our Courts, the reality couldn’t be more different.
Under current Ministry of Justice guidelines, the offence of carrying a knife or offensive weapon in a public place of a school is:-
At Magistrates Court – 6 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine.
For a second offence – (unless there are extenuating circumstances) 6 months’ imprisonment.
At Crown Courts – on indictment 4 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
In reality, Magistrates have been directed by The Justice Department not to send offenders to prison as Mr David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, believes such sentences are ineffective and is advocating community order instead and new tagging procedures to enforce such orders.
Mr Gauke believes that tougher sentences are not the answer to knife crime, “The idea that tougher sentences provide the prominent answer to knife crime – I just do not think the evidence supports that.”
To date, no information has been published as to who and where the resources are coming from to monitor the tagged offenders, as currently, the Probation Service is in a state of crisis and cannot even cope with monitoring recently-released inmates from prison. Currently, a large proportion of young offenders sentenced to community service don’t even turn up and, even if and when they are placed before a Court for breach of these orders, they are not penalised. In effect – they have received no sentence for their crimes.
Contrast this laissez-faire attitude to the vigour and zeal being employed by the Government to hound and pursue members of the Parachute Regiment who were carrying out their orders when they opened fire in Northern Ireland on “Bloody Sunday.”
“Many veterans, now in their mid-seventies, are being made scapegoats to placate the so-called Peace Process.
Writing in a letter to The Daily Telegraph on 9th March 2019, a reader questioned when will the Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley, report on what progress is being made into the murders in 1972 of the 27 members of the British Army, Ulster Defence Regiment and officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary by members of the Derry Brigade of the Provisional IRA?
Contrast these soldiers and police officers who served their country with that of Mr Kyle Davis, 18, who appeared at Magistrates Court in Birmingham the day after The Daily Mail’s publication of the photographs of the 27 murdered teenagers.
Davis received a suspended sentence, despite being caught with cocaine and a knife – his second weapons offence. He was pictured apparently laughing and swaggering as he walked out of Court taking a “selfie” of himself.
If the Conservative Government – whose conservative Party prides itself on being the Party of Law and Order – had the will to support the police, protect the public from offenders committing crimes and – as has been discussed in this Editorial – deter young people from acts of violence, would it not be more effective to prosecute knife crimes at Crown Court instead of at Magistrates?
As prisoners normally only serve half their custodial sentence, the minimum sentence should be increased to 6 years in gaol and a second offence to 12 years.
The next excuse from the Chancellor will be but where does the money come from to build new gaols?
Perhaps some of the wasteful £14.5 billion of taxpayers’ money spent on foreign aid would be adequate for several maximum-security prisons, staffed by Prison Service personnel and not contracted out to private companies who have proved to be an utter disaster.
Why should we donate £90.1 million to India – a country with more billionaires than Britain and one of the largest Defence Forces in the world?
Like India with its nuclear weapons, its neighbour Pakistan is in receipt of £402.5 million of taxpayers’ money, with Turkey – another country with a massive army – benefiting from £137.9 million, supposedly to help their farmers improve their techniques.
A spokesman for the UK Government stated: “Our aid commitment increases Britain’s global influence and allows us to shape the world around us, which is firmly in the UK’s interest.”
Surely, “The UK’s interest” is at home to fund the resources to prevent the tragic life-changing and emotional upheaval experienced by families as a result of the on-going knife crime plague rather than squandering vast sums of money on overseas countries.
In the long-term, obviously prevention is better than cure but such prevention can only be successful if the police – with very much enhanced personnel – are able to work with communities and turn young people away from violence.
Many of these initiatives are already in place and have resulted in a different attitude by young people towards the police.
Sadly, for those who continue hell-bent on drug-dealing and being part of a gang culture or committing anti-social behaviour, then only a very visible police presence and a Justice system that punishes the offender will succeed.