Knife Crime - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by

  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 illnesses.

  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".

  For example:

    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 teenagers—one 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 Dayoni—guilty 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 Kill!"

  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"

  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 well-being.

    —  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 "under-age drinking".

  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,

  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 TV storylines.


  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 Act".

  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 Ceramic Knives.


  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 old—lst 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 Punishment—a clear and tough message of deterrence!

  On 27 February, 2009 KnifeCrimes.Org held a county wide conference—Essex 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.

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