Thursday, 5 June 2008

Knife crime

Ended up in the Chamber today as PPS cover to a colleague who was welcoming the Queen on a visit to his constituency - which I suppose is a reasonably good excuse to miss a debate.

It was a topical debate on knife crime, and for the most part consisted of intelligent and thoughtful contributions, for example, raising the links between knife attacks and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, mental health problems, stalking and personality disorders.

But of course the biggest concern at the moment is 'youth on youth' knife crime, which the Prime Minister addressed in his statement today. Some, but not all of this is gang-related. Sometimes - which tends to grab the headlines - it involves innocent bystanders, in the wrong place at the wrong time. I suspect that most frequently, however, it involves young lads who get caught up on the peripherary of dangerous activities - sucked into it by a mixture of bravado, the perceived need to protect themselves against attack, and the street culture of the neighbourhoods in which they live.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I've had my (nearly) 15 year old nephew doing work experience with me, and staying with me at my south London flat for a couple of weeks - which is only a few hundred yards from where the latest stabbing victim, Arsema Dawit, was attacked.

He's a sensible lad, quite street wise. He also happens to be mixed race, and dresses in fairly typical street style. I have to admit, I was more than a little worried about letting him walk home by himself through the south London streets, even though it was always broad daylight, with plenty of people about. Far more worried than I'd be about me walking home alone after a late night vote, when there are more than a few strange people around. And more worried than I'd have been if it was his 16 year old female cousin. I know that my fears were exaggerated, and the chances of him becoming yet another victim of knife crime were fairly miniscule - but I am glad the Prime Minister has signalled he wants to take tougher action on this issue. Even one teenage victim is one too many. I can only imagine what Arsema Dawit's family are going through at the moment.

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