Reid Announces Knife-Crimes Database
A database of knife crime is to be set up by the Home Office in the wake of a series of horrific murders. Home Secretary John Reid announced the move yesterday amid rising concern about knife attacks and teenagers carrying weapons.
Father Paul Bennett, 59, was stabbed in the grounds of his church in Trecynon last week, and his death was followed by the murder of two teenagers, Kodjo Yenga and Adam Regis, in separate attacks in London. A man has appeared in court charged with Father Bennett’s murder.
Mr Reid expressed his condolences to the families of the victims of the “tragic and awful” crimes. He told MPs that from next month data on “serious or violent” offences involving knives will be recorded separately to give a “more detailed understanding of the prevalence of the problem”.
The difficulties in obtaining accurate information on true levels of knife crime were highlighted in the latest set of official crime statistics, published in January. That document said that, “It is not possible at present to identify offences involving the use of weapons other than firearms from national police-recorded crime statistics.”
Violent crime is still low in Wales compared to the rest of the UK, with 19 violent crimes per 1,000 people each year. There were around 700 knife-related crimes in Wales last year. The Government will also improve facilities to allow the public to pass on information about knife crime to the authorities, he said.
“The Government fully recognises the seriousness of the issue of knife crime and has put in place a variety of measures encompassing legislation, enforcement, education and prevention to address it,” said Mr Reid.
Last month the maximum sentence for carrying a knife was doubled and next month a new crime of “using someone to mind” a knife will come into force, with offenders facing up to four years in jail.
Mr Reid said he had been in talks with Crimestoppers about how witnesses to knife and gun crimes could be encouraged to come forward. He said, “We will improve facilities to allow the public to play their part to an even greater extent in informing the authorities, in providing information on knife and gun crime.
“I have today spoken with the chief executive of Crimestoppers to see what additional work can be undertaken to encourage the public to report offences and will be meeting with him on this subject shortly.”
Researchers at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies concluded recently there was a “significant minority” of pupils and young people who carried knives and “this problem may be growing”. A five-week Welsh knife amnesty this summer saw 6,208 knives handed in.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis dismissed the latest initiative from Mr Reid. Mr Davis said, “The public want John Reid to take prompt and firm action against knife crime but all he has done is ‘announce’ he is changing the way knife crime is reported. These measures are insufficient – the growing problem of knife crime is plain for all to see. He should be ensuring we have a much greater police presence on the streets to detect and deter violent crime.”
The spate of attacks by teenagers on their peers has led to calls for scanners to be installed in schools, an idea the Department for Education in England is considering. A spokeswoman for the Assembly Government said any move in that direction would come from the school’s own initiative.
She said, “Security of school premises and the measures needed to reduce or remove those risks is a matter for individual schools and local authorities. We know that schools and their LEAs take security very seriously and do regular reviews. Schools can fund security measures such as scanners themselves and seek assistance from the LEA. Security works are eligible for funding under school buildings improvement grants, but it is for the LEA to decide whether to submit a proposal for funding.”
Meanwhile the headteacher of the school attended by murdered teenager Adam Regis paid tribute yesterday to a model pupil and “a delightful and bubbly young man”. Joan Deslandes, of Kingsford Community School in Beckton, east London, said the whole school was extremely saddened and shocked by his death.
The 15-year-old nephew of Olympic sprinter John Regis had been returning home from the cinema in Beckton on Saturday night when he was stabbed. Mrs Deslandes said in a statement, “Adam was a delightful, bubbly young man who worked hard and was happy in school. His attendance and punctuality were excellent. He was always polite, popular with everyone and was a reading mentor for younger pupils.”