June 5th, 2018
I was recently asked by Anti-knife UK to speak at their demonstration outside Downing Street; meeting relatives of victims, seeing the training shoes of some laid out in front, made a profound impact on me – and all of the others attending. We cannot allow hatred, violence, bitterness and revenge to tear us apart: here are the main points from my speech:
SPEECH ON KNIFE CRIME, OUTSIDE DOWNING STREET, SUNDAY, 3rd JUNE 2018
- The Nightingale Estate, Clapton which I represent on Hackney Council recently experienced a terrible incident; a gang of youths fighting with knives and machetes, one was so seriously injured, he stumbled into a doctor’s practice adjacent, dripping blood, which understandably frightened the staff and other patients.
- Such scenes have become almost common place this year, gang fights, tit for tat reprisal stabbings, drug dealers’ feuds, issues of “respect” – or just, for some, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- In April, the murder rate in London overtook New York! That’s one record we do not want to hold.
- We held a meeting on the estate where there’d been the gang fight and stabbing, some parents said their children were too frightened to go out to play, the GP surgery dealt with the injured boy, but there was blood all over the place – on the floor, on the counter. What a sight for waiting patients to see!
- There are answers to the current problems, we don’t need to wring our hands and put up with this.
Firstly: Theresa May must reverse the police cuts she made as Home Secretary. In 2010 she agreed to Treasury demands to reduce the police budget by 18%; police numbers fell from 144,353 in 2009 to 122,859 in 2016. That is not acceptable. The first duty of government is to defend and protect its citizens.
Secondly, we must take a stronger line on drill music and incitement to violence. Inevitably, as young people’s attention span reduces, catchy, sassy lyrics with jokes about revenge and stabbing can get their attention. They are sick and evil. They need to be stopped.
Thirdly, Councils have hundreds of civil enforcement officers who issue millions of parking tickets – around 3.5 million a year in London alone. The Community Protection Scheme incorporated in the Police Reform ACT 2002 enables them to deal with a range of environmental offences – they should work with the police and protect the community. It’s appalling that the millions earned by Councils punishing motorists for parking on a yellow line or outstaying a permit are prioritised over the safety and needs of the community. Public safety must come first.
- There is insufficient research into the causes by academic institutions – although I agree with a professor from Birmingham University who reflected that Benjamin Franklyn’s axiom: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” should be a guiding principle of 21st Century crime policy.
- We need to look at all related issues – group dynamics, parental control – and, yes, punishments: I saw a gang of youths jogging down the street last month having – presumably – been looking for someone they wanted to attack, apparently holding weapons, nonchalantly getting into their cars and driving away, when they couldn’t find him.
- Let those who use knives fear the consequences. But let them also understand and perceive the implications: mothers losing sons, sisters losing brothers, a knife is a personal form of weapon, a gun – however bad – is a mechanism which can be used to kill. To stab someone, is a horrendous act which shows a contempt for life and humanity – not just the victim’s; their family, YOUR family and society.
- Those here today who’s families have suffered bereavements or who have children who’ve been seriously injured know the pain. We must counteract hatred by instilling values of decency, respect – and also the notion of proportionality.
- It’s fine to argue with someone, not to stab, maim or kill them. Life is precious.
- We need to encourage all communities to take responsibility for their young people – but equally – for young people to take responsibility for their own actions.
- They do know the difference between right and wrong. Let’s stop all the hatred, violence and bitterness and move towards a more peaceful, civilised society