Skip to main content

Gang-related Crime

Volume 542: debated on Monday 19 March 2012

The Government report on ending gang and youth violence published last November sets out a long-term, evidence-based programme to tackle gang and youth violence. The approach combines the early identification of children and young people most at risk of being drawn into gangs, providing ways out for those wanting to leave a gang, and tough enforcement against those who continue with a violent lifestyle.

My hon. Friend will be aware that Ealing has been identified as one of the 30 top hot spots for gang problems. Our local borough serious youth violence team is already hard at work. Can the Minister update the House on what more the Government are doing to tackle knife crime, especially among young people?

The Government’s position is clear. Any adult who commits a crime using a knife can expect to be sent to prison, and serious offenders can expect a long sentence. The Home Office has committed £18 million of funding for 2011-13 to support the police, local agencies and the voluntary sector to tackle knife, gun and gang-related crime. As my hon. Friend says, Ealing has been identified as one of the 30 most affected areas. That is why it is one of the areas selected to receive additional support. It has been allocated more than £230,000 in provisional support, and I know that that money will be well spent.

Gang-related crime is a major plague in many of our communities. Government measures so far are welcome, but what more can the Government do to combat the problem, particularly when it comes to reducing the number of vulnerable people drawn to gangs?

My hon. Friend touches on an important point. It is clearly not just about attacking the offences and identifying the offenders—it is trying to stop them offending and joining gangs in the first place. That is why support for parents and families is at the heart of this programme. We have established an ending gang and youth violence team led by a detective chief superintendent from the Metropolitan police. The team will have access to advisers from a range of backgrounds, including community activists, local authority specialists and voluntary organisations, so that we can get to the roots of the problem as soon as it starts, long before the children join a gang.

Does the Minister accept that among those who are most vulnerable to being drawn into gang activity, as well as being radicalised in various ways, are those who have spent a short period in custody? Will the Minister focus on making sure that those who come out of short periods of custody are targeted effectively so that they are not drawn into such activity?

The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point. That is precisely why we are not just treating this as a purely policing matter, but drawing in local authorities, voluntary organisations and other specialists, so that that kind of positive intervention to keep people on the right track and off the wrong track can be part of our overall strategy.

Will the Minister update the House on the progress and uptake of gang injunctions and, in the light of that update, advise us on whether the Home Office is reconsidering its plan to abolish antisocial behaviour orders, which also have a role to play in tackling gang culture?

I think that the hon. Lady will recognise that ASBOs felt like a good idea at the time but did not work and straightforwardly failed. Far too many ASBOs were breached, and increasing numbers of them were breached the longer time went on. I am sure that the policy was devised with the best intentions, but it did not work, which is why we have moved on to other policies that will be more effective in combating antisocial behaviour and gang-related violence.