(1 year, 9 months ago)Commons Chamber
The hon. Lady again makes a very valid point. I do not disagree with her. She is almost certainly right when we are talking about mid-teenagers, late-teenagers and people in their early 20s, but we need to reset the dial and start this education in primary and secondary schools now. I am not suggesting that this is a panacea. I am not even suggesting that it is a quick or easy fix, but it has to be part of a solution and a package of measures that will help to eradicate knife crime in the medium to long term.
There is an organisation in my constituency called KnifeCrimes.Org, which is run by a lady called Ann Oakes-Odger. In the neighbouring constituency, a lady called Caroline Shearer runs another organisation called Only Cowards Carry. These inspirational women each lost a child to a knife crime attack—hugely tragic—but they have harnessed that energy and set up charities that are doing such great good around weapons awareness, particularly in schools. I look to the Minister because these organisations need funding in order to survive. In some cases, that comes via the police and crime commissioners, but I want to see more central funding made available for these organisations, which do such good work at a grassroots level.
I have been on one of the courses. I sat in a school and watched one of the presentations, it was really hard-hitting. Everyone leaves thinking, “Wow.” We were shown on a huge projector what numerous knife wounds look like. We learnt about the impact on families. If I had watched one of those presentations as a seven, eight, nine or 10-year-old, or even in the early stages of secondary school, I would have found it quite compelling.
Too many young people are carrying knives, and we need to understand why that is by getting in early. That is why primary schools are so important. We need to show these young people, as I mentioned to the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), that a knife does not keep them safe; statistically, it makes them far more likely to be the victims of a knife crime attack. We must hammer that message home—not just in schools as part of weapons awareness education, but as part of social media activity and in TV ads like those being run in Scotland. There has to be an overall package of measures to show them how it feels to have a life shattered by a member of their family losing their life through a traumatic weapons attack.
May I gently push the Minister on a couple of things? We need weapons awareness classes in school. We must support the organisations up and down this country that are providing that and support the creation of new ones. I would like to see mandatory weapons awareness sessions as a condition of a conviction for someone caught carrying a knife. It is not acceptable just to give them a caution, a slap on the wrist, and an “Off you go”. We have to do more by sending them on a mandatory course. Yes, there is a cost to that, but I think it would pay dividends in terms of the number of people for whom we could break the cycle. I also encourage the Minister to push for closer working between local police forces and the Metropolitan police to tackle the growing issue of county lines, which we desperately need to resolve.
Finally, probably the most important message that I can impart to the Minister is this: please, please can we treat the children and young people who are caught up and groomed, victimised and intimidated into county lines activity and drug dealing as victims, not as criminals?