Knife Crime - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Annex B: Leeds seminar notes

We held a seminar in Leeds Town Hall on 26 January 2009 to discuss knife crime in the North of England. We heard three presentations and held an open discussion with around 20 representatives from Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. A summary of proceedings is set out below.

Cathy Elliott, Community Foundation for Merseyside

Cathy Elliott presented the work of the Community Foundation for Merseyside. The Foundation was established in 1999 as a registered charity that acts as an intermediary between donors and the community. It works with over 50 donors across all sectors and currently delivers £4.5 million a year in grant-making to around 1,000 community groups. It has 150 local community volunteers.

It provides a community-led response to the issues of street crime, gang culture and supports 'at risk' young people in transforming their lives—essentially a youth crime prevention scheme. It administers a programme of community grants, community leader support, local capacity building and expertise sharing. A cross-sector, multi-agency approach using a community engagement model is more effective because it captures and uses expertise.

It was founded in partnership with Merseyside Police, and is also partnered by the Liverpool Echo and the Tutu Foundation UK, supported by Cherie Booth QC & George Howarth MP and funded by Merseyside Police, the Home Office and local Housing Associations. At a national level, it is partnered by the Community Foundation Network and the Channel 4 Street Weapons Commission.

Its projects include:

PAYES Plus Extra (September '06 - April '07)

  • 11 projects were funded at approx. £1,000 each;
  • 8,015 young people were engaged;
  • 36% of young people involved were deemed 'at risk'.

Operation Safe Space (Summer '07)

  • 24 projects were funded at approx. £1,000 each;
  • Achieved an 11.3% reduction in anti-social behaviour;
  • 2,140 young people were engaged.

Grassroots Activities

  • Led by local community leaders working with 'at risk' young people;
  • Activities inspired and created by local leaders and young people;
  • Supporting and empowering local people finding local solutions.


  • Creation of support networks - e.g. youth mentoring;
  • Creation of new project strategies;
  • Self-esteem & confidence building;
  • Creation of Training & Employment opportunities.

The Foundation operates across six boroughs in Merseyside, which each have different issues, for example in Liverpool it is gangs; in the Wirral a lack of opportunities for young people. Their funders are mainly from the public sector but they were hoping to secure their first private sector funder that week.

The Young Transformers Programme has demonstrated a reduction in anti-social behaviour.

There are issues around drugs and alcohol and territoriality but also there was nowhere for young people to go, and no community support.

Agencies have worked with the Liverpool Echo to ensure the paper puts across a balanced view of youth crime.

As part of the Tackling Knives Action Plan, the Foundation is working with a youth forum in each of the six boroughs and will be sharing this evidence in March. On 23 March there will be an event in Liverpool where young people will be talking about knife crime.

Question and Answer

In response to a question from Karen Buck MP about dealing with the issue of postcode gangs in providing services for young people, Cathy Elliott replied that they explore meeting up in neural areas, for example they funded an away day in Yorkshire for young men trying to avoid gangs.

In response to a question from Karen Buck MP about how the Foundation fits in with the extended schools agenda, Cathy Elliott replied that the Foundation does not yet work with extended schools but is keen to have more partners round the table.

Mrs Ann Cryer MP noted that there are two groups of young people in her constituency who are constantly fighting and asked how this might be dealt with. Cathy Elliott noted the findings of the recent Joseph Rowntree report, Young People and territoriality in British Cities. The Foundation wants to explore the implications around the finding that feuds are passed down from generation to generation.

In response to the Chairman, Cathy Elliott said that the Foundation has £100,000 for grant-making and costs. It employs 16 members of staff. It received £25,000 in the spring from the Home Office and £15,000 more recently.

Dr Fiona Lecky, Trauma Audit Research Network

For details of the data presented by Dr Lecky, please see her written memorandum published in volume 2 of this Report.

Open discussion session

In response to the Chairman, Dr Lecky said that only a very small minority of victims are injured by intervening to stop a fight. In some cases she has witnessed real intent (particularly with ex-partners). The other big area of injuries (besides domestic violence) is through fracas.

In response to the Chairman's question about data-sharing between hospitals and the police, Dr Lecky said that the policy within the Greater Manchester Police area is that, regardless of the wishes of the patient, hospitals will report incidents to the police where there is a serious threat to life or limb. For more minor cases, they will report all cases in an anonymised fashion (such as where it happened, type of weapon) to enable the police to undertake preventative work in communities. Their fear as doctors is that, if patients think the incident will be reported to the police automatically, this may deter them from seeking medical help.

Fabian Hamilton (MP for Leeds North-East) asked if there is any data to suggest that carrying a knife makes you more likely to be stabbed. Dr Lecky replied that patients often do not give details of incidents and hospitals are not at liberty to do routine searches.

Karen Buck MP asked if the nature of knife crime is changing. Dr Lecky replied that she was surprised at the extent to which kitchen knives were used in incidents, but from her experience of 20 years in A&E it has not changed much otherwise.

In response to Mrs Ann Cryer MP, Dr Lecky said that in the context of fracas, which is not premeditated, injuries tend to be to the arms and legs rather than to the vital organs.

In response to Mrs Ann Cryer MP, Dr Lecky said that glass is only used in 5-10% of cases and she has never personally seen a case of bleeding to death from a glass wound.

In response to Mrs Ann Cryer MP, Dr Lecky said that she would want all cases where there is a severe threat to life or limb to be reported to the police, but not all incidents of knife use, as this could be challenged under current patient confidentiality rules.

Keith Lawrence, Leeds Community Safety, PC Bob Bowman, West Yorkshire Police, and Peter Armstrong, Royal Armouries Museum

Presenters told us about their award-winning Leeds Weapons Awareness Programme. The Programme grew out of a conference held in Leeds in 2004 where 120 people across agencies met to discuss the issue of young people and knives. At the same time, the Leeds Youth Offending Service was looking at weapon prevention and became keen to adapt the Be Safe weapons prevention programme being piloted by the London Borough of Newham to the Leeds context.

The programme is now delivered to all high schools across Leeds. It is believed to be the largest-scale crime prevention programme delivered in the UK.

PC Bob Bowman was one of the first officers to be trained in the programme and he has now trained all of the Leeds school officers and those throughout West Yorkshire. There is close liaison between the police and youth workers to decide which of them is the most appropriate agency to deliver a particular session. They encountered some initial reluctance in schools who feared the training could imply the school had a problem with weapons but now all the secondary heads are on board, which in turn has led to improved working and extension of the Safer Schools Partnership. They have recently increased the number of Safer Schools officers in Leeds from 11 to 22.

The programme affect young people's thought processes about knives and they have seen an increase in young people reporting other young people for carrying knives.

The Royal Armouries is a national museum that holds around 100,000 articles including many weapons. They bring a lot of things to the table as a museum: an element of neutrality as opposed to police or schools; a level of credibility in their role as a trusted disseminator of information (unlike the public perceptions of Government statistics); and through the academics working with them on these issues. Initially the organisation CASAC delivered the Leeds Weapons Awareness Programme but when they began to struggle with funding, the Royal Armouries took it over and funded it themselves.

A lot of other museums are having similar thoughts, for example the Royal Armouries Museum is currently working with the Manchester Imperial War Museum and the Customs and Excise museum.

With the help of the campaigner Pat Regan, they developed 'Impact Reality' as a resource for police to use with young people. Displays in the museum have allowed parents visiting the museum to raise the issue of knife crime with their children.

The Royal Armouries has also launched the 'No to Knives' campaign, which involves running weapon prevention sessions in the museum, training on detecting concealed weapons, working with the youth service on adult training, working with the Youth Offending Service on the Weapon Possession Prevention Programme and are interested in the Safer Schools Partnership.

Question and Answer

In response to a question from the Chairman, we were told that 10,000 young people have signed the No to Knives pledge on the internet and 7,000 have signed on paper. It is currently restricted to Yorkshire. They believed that 20,000 people have completed the Weapons Awareness Programme.

In response to a question from the Chairman, we were told that ethnicity is not a factor in street violence to the same extent in West Yorkshire as in London, but there are occasionally problems with gangs.

Open discussion session

Kate MacDonald (Manchester Youth Offending Service) added that in Manchester there is a difference between the nature of gun crime, which is gang-related, and knife crime, which is not. Gang-related crime tends to involve members of the black community, whereas the average profile of a knife-offender tends to be a white, working-class male aged 22 or 23, with victims aged around 30.

Assistant Chief Constable David Evans (West Yorkshire Police) told the Committee that the picture is different in West Yorkshire, partly because there are rural as well as urban communities.

Dennis Lewis (Leeds Youth Offending Service) told us that he currently works with seven young knife offenders, six of whom say they were carrying for protection (the other got drunk and used a knife in a fight). Therefore, removing fear is key to tackling knife carrying.

In response to Karen Buck MP's query about the transition from primary to secondary school, PC David Brook (West Yorkshire Police) noted that the rise in knife offences beginning in the mid-1990s appears to coincide with the abolition of the middle-schools tier in West Yorkshire in 1992. In his opinion, 10-12 is the key risk age.

Kate MacDonald noted that it is fascinating to see how much the situation varies from area to area, demonstrating that solutions must be tailored to the local situation.

Phil Hull (No to Knives volunteer) noted that gangs are often formed along area codes, which then escalates to violence. The key age for intervention depends partly on the kind of area - in a "bad" area, by the age of 16 kids will often be already too involved in crime and it is too late to reach them. Mark Cooper (No to Knives) noted that lots of young people witnessed a stabbing in December on an estate in Phil's area - these are the kinds of 'role models' these young people have.

ACC David Evans informed the Committee that West Yorkshire Police carried out a survey of 5,000 children, 2% of whom said they carried weapons on a regular basis, but 34% of whom said they were worried about knives—showing the discrepancy between fear and reality. 42% of knife offences in West Yorkshire take place away from the street. 'Knife-enabled' crime, such as glassings, are down significantly in West Yorkshire.

Cathy Elliott made a plea to all police forces across the country to get involved in community work.

Yvonne Crowther said that the Cardinal Youth Club have eight young people who will be going into schools to deliver a weapons prevention programme to younger pupils, trained by police officers. They hope to expand it out of Leeds.

Nadine Sargeant (Royal Armouries Museum) noted the need to work with parents.

Mark Cooper told us about the 'final warning' programme run at the Royal Armouries for young people. He believed there has been an increase in people carrying weapons because of media coverage of knife crime, but that there is a small core of young people who will always carry knives.

Karen Buck MP said she was surprised at how little work is done with young people on avoiding escalation, such as anger management. Dennis Lewis replied that historically Youth Offending Teams have done little work on prevention but this is changing. Peter Armstrong said that often in the case of kitchen knives, individuals lose their temper, go home and find a knife, rather than carrying it all the time. Schools have identified that many knife carriers are bullies or are bullied—there is a need for more work on conflict resolution between young people.

The Chairman asked each participant to state one key action they would like to see. The results were as follows:

  • Early intervention (Peter Armstrong);
  • Viewing each area's problems individually (Nadine Sargeant);
  • Better data-recording systems (Keith Lawrence);
  • Early intervention (David Brook);
  • More youth provision and for younger children (Yvonne Crowther);
  • Early intervention and more responsible media reporting (Dr Lecky);
  • A multi-agency approach (Cathy Elliott);
  • Laws and powers to help prevent knife crime (Phil Hull);
  • A recognition that a young person carrying a knife is more likely to be injured, linking with safeguarding children and installing self-esteem through leadership programmes (Kate MacDonald);
  • Early intervention and mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders (Mark Cooper);
  • Sustainable funding for programmes (Dennis Lewis);
  • More official credibility given to restorative approaches (PC Bob Bowman);
  • An acceptance that the factors underpinning knife crime are very complicated and the response must therefore be multi-faceted (ACC David Evans).

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