On Wednesday 12th February, the Youth Select Committee launched its report investigating the knife crime ‘epidemic’ in the UK. The Committee has ruled cuts to important and arguably life-saving services for vulnerable young people have caused a rise in knife crime.
The report, titled ‘Our Generation’s Epidemic: Knife Crime’ is being launched by members of the Committee at a special House of Commons reception in anticipation of a government response. Knife crime was investigated following a 2018 UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern.
Knife crime offences are reportedly at their highest in a decade, according to official figures from the Ministry of Justice. Research from the House of Commons Library also showed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
The Committee’s key findings and recommendations include:
- Inequality within communities and difference in opportunities provided across the country makes some young people particularly vulnerable to the draw of violence and gangs. The Government should develop a plan with clear targets and deadlines aimed at tackling the injustices which make a young person more vulnerable to knife crime.
- The Government should develop long-term funding plans of at least 5 years to develop effective ways of helping and reaching young people at risk of getting involved in knife crime.
- The Government should ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
- School exclusion should be the last step in a long line of disciplinary measures, and schools should be held accountable for their exclusions.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed.
- The Government should clarify its position on short term custodial sentences for young people who carry knives and to consider whether there is another approach that could more effectively deter young people from continued involvement in knife crime.
- The next version of the Serious Violence Strategy should include an increased focus on restorative justice and other informal criminal justice responses as a first step to a young persons involvement in knife crime.
Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee are concerned with the government’s increasingly punitive approach to tackling knife crime.
“If the government wishes to confront the fundamental causes of the rise in violent crime amongst young people, it must do more to address and improve the difficult circumstances many young people are facing.”
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament, gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. The Committee is made up of eleven committee members aged 11-18 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
Evidence for the Youth Select Committee’s report on knife crime was gathered in July from a range of expert witnesses, including leaders from the worlds of criminal justice, politics and the charity sector. Just like UK Parliament Select Committees, the Youth Select Committee heard evidence inside a Committee Room in Parliament, which is normally reserved for MPs, and their report will now be sent to the Government for an official response.