Memorandum submitted by KnifeCrime.org
In addition to Oral Evidence given on 20 January,
2009 by Ann Oakes-Odger founder of KnifeCrimes.Org & Westley's
Weapons Awareness Programme.
My son Westley Odger was murdered in an unprovoked
fatal "Knife" attack at a cash machine at 3.00 pm on
the bright sunny Monday afternoon of 12 September 2005. It took
place in front of people of all ages including young children.
Despite every effort to save Westley, many of those people present
witnessed him bleed to death from "the neck wound that had
severed his Carotid Artery". Many people, as well as children,
were left traumatised by the terrible scene they witnessed. The
shock of the news of Westley's murder subsequently caused family
members to suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and constant
It became evident from the trial of Westley's
killers [sentences imposed] and in other cases researched by KnifeCrimes.Org
that "Knife Murders" are still treated in law with less
severity [in sentences imposed] than that of "Gun Crime"
murder sentences. Even where the perpetrator(s) has committed
repeated prior "knife related offences".
In April, 2005 both of the "killers"
responsible for Westley's death had made "threats to kill"
to a Police Officer when apprehended. They had made threats of
violence to a "Doorman" who had reported the incident
to the police. When stopped in their car they were found to be
carrying a "Samurai Sword" then making "threats
to kill" to the arresting officer! Yet they were still "free"
walking the streets, and able to take Westley's life less than
five months later?
"Question the same set of circumstances
applied to a person(s) carrying a Gun, making threats to kill
a Police Officer [or murdered `Westley' by the use of a Gun] ...?"
One of the perpetrators of Westley's death,
was released from prison on 16 March, 2009. He did not have to
go through a parole process? He has only served just over three
years for manslaughter, despite an "unchallenged" history
of recidivist violent criminal behaviour.
The two men responsible for killing Westley
were brothers aged 31 and 36 years of age? They had continued
throughout their lives involved in crime which included the carrying
and use of "Knives".
On New Year's Day of 2008 the murders of two
teenagersone in Leicester and the other in Edmonton, 17
year old Henry Bolombi. Three weeks later Louis Boduka was stabbed
through the heart. In February, 2008 16 year old Lyke Nmezu was
attacked and died in Hospital. All three were reported to be members
of a gang.
An insider of an Edmonton Gang said that
"Knives" or "Shanks" were usually a weapon
of choice ... "You get less sentence killing someone with
a `Knife' than using a `Gun' ...!"
January, 2009 it was reported at the end of
the trial of 16 year old Elijah Dayoniguilty of having
stabbed David Idowu in the heart, was to serve a "Life Sentence"
with a tariff of 12 years before he could apply for parole? After
Elijah Dayoni stabbed David Idowu in the heart, he laughed while
chasing his victim until he collapsed. This killer was trying
to initiate himself into a gang and say, "I'm prepared to
During the many talks to young people about
the consequences of carrying weapons, and illustrating that ...
"In London 27 teenagers during 2007 had been stabbed to death
and a similar number in 2008, including Ben Kinsella and Rob Knox!"
... was startled by a comment of one concerned young person who
said ... "That's a whole classroom!"
The brief foregoing stories ... are clear examples
[of which there are countless others] ... "that Knife Crime
is still treated with less severity than Gun Crime when it comes
to Murder!" Had the above murders been carried out using
a gun, the Life Sentence Tariffs would be considerably higher.
KnifeCrimes.Org believe [as well as many other supporters] "that
Knife Crime and Gun Crime especially where murder/manslaughter
is concerned requires the Life Sentence Tariffs brought in line
with each other. That Knife Murders should carry the same Life
Sentence Tariff as a Gun Murder".
We urge the Committee to recommend
that Life Sentence Tariffs for Knife Crime Murder be treated in
the same way as Gun Crime Murders.
Although, there has been high profile "Knife"
murder cases prior to 2005 for example Stephen Lawrence (1993),
the Head Teacher Philip Lawrence (1995), the School Pupil Luke
Walmsley (2003) these cases ultimately slid under the radar of
Gun Crime! Neither should be happening on our streets in so-called
"peace time" least of all children killing children.
For this reason KnifeCrimes.Org devised "Westley's Weapons
Awareness" which integrated the "Be Safe Project"
to challenge Young Peoples' ill conceived idea that carrying "Knives"
would protect them, as a strategy to address the issue. Westley's
Weapons Awareness has been successfully running in Schools since
January, 2007 talking to Year 7 pupils [upwards] including Sixth
Form Colleges and Universities. It is paramount that every young
person has the benefit of education, to inform them about the
implications of becoming involved in carrying weapons. Knife/Gun
crime and other issues such as abusing alcohol and/or using drugs
or becoming influenced by street gangs. What a Criminal Record
means in career and travel terms.
We urge this Committee to recommend
that every school throughout the UK has access to preventative
education in "Weapons Awareness" at Year 7 [or before],
and "Knife referral" for first offenders.
It is paramount that we do not criminalise young
people unnecessarily. KnifeCrimes.Org and Westley's Weapons Awareness
is delivered and accessed by every school in Essex as well as
Clubs and Youth Community Groups. Working in Partnership with
Parents, Community Safety, Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership
(CDRP), Safer Schools Officers, Police, Courts and Probation.
Proactive intervention to each annual intake of Year 7's (11-12
year old) to address issues such as Bullying, Alcohol, Drugs &
Knives through the "2Smart Roadshows" www.2smart.co.uk/knives
Also, engaging older youths/teenagers involved
in the night time economy, by working with the SOS Bus which goes
out evening and weekends dealing with alcohol issues, which can
lead to violence where abusive/excessive intake has seriously
impaired reasonable behaviour. Arming our young people with information
to not only "stay safe" but to understand how to conduct
themselves when socialising, how to be responsible when drinking
alcohol. To have "respect" for themselves, their families,
and those in "authority" who are effectively the "keepers
of a structured, law abiding society!" Premature drug and
alcohol related deaths are also compelling reason for education,
our intervention programmes are not just about crime and violence,
but the holistic effects within Society|medical health and social
We urge the Committee to recommend
and "re-think" on the sale of alcopops, which are geared
towards the "young palette". It is felt that they encourage
Through the work of KnifeCrimes.Org and Westley's
Weapons Awareness it is clear that most young people we meet are
well balanced, concerned and caring people who want their "voice"
heard when they say ... "We say `No to Knives' ... we want
the killing of `Young People' to stop!"
KnifeCrimes.Org believes that every school in
the United Kingdom in 2009 should have "Weapons Awareness
Education" made available to every Year 7 Pupil, as an immediate
way of promoting a sense of well-being and safety, as well as
a "long term" strategy to challenging attitudes. Thereafter,
each annual intake of Year 7's reinforced by engaging all levels
of peer influences. It is also believed that many other Agencies
within the Public, Private and Voluntary Sector also concur with
this view. We also support "Knife Referral Schemes"
for first offenders.
School Bullying or the perception of fear, the
threat of expensive gadgets being taken, or money, are reasons
given for carrying a weapon. Peer pressure to feel macho or tough
to gain "respect". Bullying is behaviour that can start
at an early age and left unchecked can lead to the "bullied"
becoming the "bully" which can later lead on to more
serious violent tendencies. Those young people who become involved
in crime, do not go from being reasonable school children to becoming
Gang members, carrying Guns|there is a progression. There are
clear signs ...
It is also believed that "School Exclusion"
is often the "gateway" to becoming influenced by street
groups/gangs. Becoming involved in gangs, bringing with it many
other damaging issues such as substance abuse, street robberies/muggings
and burglaries. Abuse of prescription drugs as well as illegal
"street" drugs that can then lead on to "addiction"
causing possible mental health problems or involvement in the
sex trade, to feed a habit. Intelligence about known gangs has
shown that Scotland Yard are aware of 169 gangs in London, each
have around 20-30 members ...
"Where Gangs are prevalent They run
the neighbourhood and challenge Young People to join!"
These gang members, once given the opportunity
to disband and turn away from crime, must have the full force
of the law imposed if a life of crime is continued.
Safety arches, wands, stop and search are all
measures that are welcomed to protect those who "do not carry"
as much as for "disarming" those that do! Often the
public perceive serious crime as happening only in major cities
... therefore, should "we" be concerned about crime
if "we" reside in the Home Counties? Well surely the
answer to that is "Yes" we should always be concerned!
Many counties are considered safe areas to live and work, but
we must not be complacent. Proactive Policing rather than "reactive"
has to be "Key" to keeping those counties "safe".
Also, engaging and encouraging the public to report crime, to
take back our streets, to have a valid voice.
At the "Single Session" Home Affairs
Select Committee Debate of 27 March, 2007 it was shown that in
England and Wales during the preceding nine years a total of 2,026
people had been stabbed to death as opposed to 601 fatal shootings.
It was also stated that many "knife attacks" were often
not reported. Since this debate [from April, 2007] specific incidents/stats
on "knife attacks" are now being recorded by police.
There are also some excellent programmes now in place which include
the Tackling Violence Action Plan, Tackling Knives Action Plan
and the "IT DOESN'T HAVE TO HAPPEN" Campaign launched
on 20 January, 2009, www.itdoesnthavetohappen.co.uk/stakeholders
However, there are still some areas that would
benefit from review.
KnifeCrimes.Org believes that violent video
games and violent TV storylines [before 9.00 pm] have a detriment
"subliminal" effect on the young developing mind. Violent
input without consequences, causing viewers to become desensitised
to real-life. Violence is commonplace, even in the TV Soaps that
are screened in the early evening. Many commentators now believe
that violence in computer games is damaging to youths. This view
is also held by Lord Attenborough who said: "Thirty years
ago if Gary Cooper pulled out a gun, the audience would give a
sharp intake of breath!"
During 2008 Censors approved the release
on DVD of a group of "video nasties" which had been
banned for 20 years, on the grounds that modern attitudes to on-screen
violence are more relaxed!
We urge this Committee to recommend
more stringent Censorship of Violent Video Games and early evening
Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988
... prohibits the possession of an article with blade or point
in a public place without good reason or lawful authority, with
the exception of a folding pocket knife with a blade not exceeding
three inches. The information contained in this section causes
huge confusion to young people and the public in general. This
has been raised more than once in the Commons and recorded in
Hansard as well as having been raised in the memorandum
submitted by Ann Oakes-Odger of 27 March, 2007. It is still on
the Statue and Section 139 still applies.
KnifeCrimes.Org believes that the laws governing
"Offensive Weapons" which are derived from at least
six separate Acts are in need of clear legislation. At present
there is no clear legal framework for dealing with "knives"
as a whole. Every new provision inevitably increases the chance
that the Police could make mistakes that result in failed prosecutions.
We urge this Committee to recommend
a review on "Knife Crime" laws. That the Law Commission,
Reform the Law to produce clear Legislation by way of a "Weapons
Whilst we know that the biggest problem are
knives taken from the kitchen drawer, we have recently become
concerned about some youths who are evading Police Safety Arches
and Search Wands by carrying knives with carbon fibre blades and
making their own stabbing weapons out of plastic rulers. Community
Safety in Essex recently raised the matter of policy concerning
- CROWN COURT
It is considered that clear guidance is still
needed for Magistrates Courts. At what point and under what circumstances
is a "serious" matter presently referred to Crown ...
under the so serious basis? Whilst the Violent Crime Reduction
Act 2006 [at the Bill stage] increased the penalty for carrying
a blade without good reason, from two years to four years ...
these penalties must be capable of being implemented?
KnifeCrimes.Org reiterates its conclusions made
in the memorandum to the Home Affairs Select Committee of 27 March,
2007 that we believe a Nationwide "Weapons Awareness"
Education Programme should be made available to every Year 7 [11-12
yr oldlst year Senior School intake]. Providing information
to young people to promote a safer community and encourage responsible
citizenship. Arm young people with information to make the right
choices in life ... not to become involved in crime or carry "blades"
in the foolish belief that it will protect them. If informed
young people make and informed decision to cross the "line
in the Sand, which is the Law" then the penalties must
be clear and "Tough" ...
Positive Role Models are needed,
that Young People respect and aspire to!
Zero Tolerance and Assertive Policing,
where the "Line in the Sand" is crossed!
Certainty of Punishmenta clear
and tough message of deterrence!
On 27 February, 2009 KnifeCrimes.Org held a
county wide conferenceEssex say's "No to Knife &
Violent Crime". This conference was hosted with the support
of, and in partnership with Essex Police, Colchester Borough Council,
Colchester Community Safety, Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership
(CDRP) and Bob Russell, MP for Colchester. Around 112 agencies
and community groups attended. The culmination of the Conference
Debate resulted in a number of recommendations attached herewith
for the consideration of the Home Affairs Select Committee.