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Knife Crime

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 10 May 2018

The serious violence strategy, published on 9 April, sets out our response to serious violence, which includes knife crime. We will legislate to tighten the law in this area, and the Crown Prosecution Service continues to work with law enforcement agencies to tackle knife crime and other forms of serious violence.

Following Donald Trump’s speech to the National Rifle Association, does the Solicitor General agree that the streets of London would be far more dangerous for communities if criminals and gang members were armed with automatic weapons rather than knives? Does he agree that while longer sentences for knife offenders are important, we also need to do more to understand the underlying causes of knife crime and gang violence?

My hon. Friend is right about the need to tackle the underlying reasons for knife crime, whether that is carried out by gangs or young people in isolation. That sort of work is far more valuable than attempts by the President of the United States to channel Sean Connery in “The Untouchables”.

How can the Minister alleviate concerns over recent reports in the national press about the prevalence of knife crime in our towns and cities? What action are the Government taking to co-ordinate an approach to those offences?

My hon. Friend speaks with bitter and sad experience, given the appalling case in his constituency, and I send my condolences to everybody concerned. It is clear that we are seeing a rise in the use of knives in some of our towns and cities. Some of that information is a result of better police work and increased reporting, but there is no doubt that we have a challenge to face, particularly with our young people. I am glad that the strategy we have set out deals not only with prosecution, but with the root causes of knife crime. We must teach young people about the dangers of knife crime at appropriate times, including both after and before such offences are committed.

The 42.2% rise in knife crime in schools on the mainland is in stark contrast to the one conviction per year in Northern Ireland’s schools. What discussions has the Solicitor General had with his devolved counterparts about the approach to juvenile convictions in Northern Ireland?

I am interested in the work being done not only in Northern Ireland, but in Scotland, and I am a member of the inter-ministerial group that deals with these issues. We are working with, and obtaining as much information and learning as possible from, the devolved parts of the United Kingdom so that we can improve our approach. This is not just a question of crime; it is a question of health education, and if we deal with it in that way, we might start to crack the problem.

In Scotland, crimes involving a weapon are down by two thirds since 2007, and the Scottish Government’s whole-system approach to youth crime incorporates innovative approaches from the prosecution service in Scotland, including diversion from prosecution where appropriate. Will the Solicitor General follow Met Commissioner Cressida Dick in coming to Scotland to view the excellent work being done on knife crime there?

The hon. and learned Lady develops the point made by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), and I would be keen to learn more. I have already started that process by delving into the Scottish experience, and I am glad that the learning and experience in Scotland is being absorbed into thinking and policy development south of the border. I would be happy to take up the hon. and learned Lady’s invitation.