Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
CAMPBELL MP AND
24 MARCH 2009
Q580 Chairman: There were a number
of young people who this committee have met. I certainly met somebody
at Aylesbury Prison who was in there for a knife crime offence;
he was actually there for five years. He was reformed. He is the
only person I have come across in prison who has said, "I
am reformed; I am not going to do it again" with such sincerity.
Is there a role for allowing some of these young people to go
and visit schools and institutions for young people so that they
have an opportunity of telling them what it is going to be like
if they continue with a life of crime? What facilities and arrangements
are there on offer for young people to do that?
Mr Hanson: Again, I think it is
very important that we look at peer group led activity. As I tried
to indicate earlier to the committee, we do use peer groups in
relation to the knife referral programmes, which we are now extending
to 80 areas over the next couple of years. That will involve people
who have been through the system explaining to young people how
they became involved in gang culture, what it meant to them, what
the sentence they have undertaken has meant to them, how that
has made a difference to their lives, and why undertaking bravado
activity does not ultimately lead to a positive lifestyle.
Q581 Gwyn Prosser: You have announced
a number of initiatives with regard to your work with retailers
to reduce the availability of knives into the hands of young people.
Given how readily available knives are and every kitchen drawer
is bristling with knives, how effective is that part of the policy?
Mr Campbell: We think it is an
important part of what I described earlier as a jigsaw. We have
21 retailers, particularly the big retailers, who have signed
up to this. We are very grateful that they have done that. I think
it sends out the right message in store if it is more difficult
for people to access knives. In some cases, it will have been
the way in which people have got their hands on to relatively
cheap knives. Some retailers have also taken knives off their
internet sales because that was a way in which people could have
accessed them too. I take your point that knives are readily available,
but I think this is an important step forward. Interestingly,
one of the first things that the designer lines that we have in
place to design out crime are looking at is a knife without a
point, a knife which does the job but which would be virtually
useless if it came to doing damage to a human being.
Q582 Chairman: You are not suggesting
we eat our lunch and dinner with those knives? The point Mr Prosser
is making is that these knives are household knives. A knife that
is useless and cannot cut is of no use to anyone, is it?
Mr Campbell: The knife that I
use to cut my meal with does not have a point at the end; it has
a rounded end. The question they started with was: why does a
knife need a point on the end? It is the point that obviously
begins to do the damage if someone is stabbed.
Q583 Chairman: The Government clearly
is concerned about this issue. You have weekly meetings, three
departments with the Children's Department involved. You have
a set of benchmarks, which is that you want to ensure that there
is going to be a reduction. When can you announce to Parliament
and the country that you think you have this issue under control?
Mr Campbell: We believe that we
are making clear progress. However, we accept that there is still
concern and that we have learnt lessons in the last year, which
is why we are putting £5 million into, if you like, stage
2 of tackling knife crime. I am not sure there will be a momentI
would like to think there wasat which you could say, "Yes,
we have cracked the problem". I can say that there will be
several moments at which we can say we are making progress, and
this is one of them.
Mr Hanson: There is a real, genuine
commitment not just from the Ministers but the officials who attend
the weekly meetings to make a difference. The police, health service,
justice and clerks are really committed because they recognise
that every time we have a death, that is a failure of our efforts
and there is a real sorrow and disappointment when that happens,
and we have a real commitment to make a difference.
Q584 Mr Winnick: To the extent that
young people are sent to prison, are appropriate steps being taken
to prevent them being recruited through extremismIslamic
extremism? A number of cases have come to light in recent years
and I am just wondering if the prison authorities are very much
on their guard on this issue.
Mr Hanson: We are very concerned
about the potential threat of Islamic extremism in prison. We
are trying to ensure that there is proper training for staff,
proper support for people who come into prison, an understanding
of what Islam is, that it is not related solely to a view that
some extremists take, and some great support through the imams
in prison dealing with positive engagement with both prison staff
and prisoners around the whole area of prevention.
Q585 Chairman: The Prime Minister
has appointed the father of Damilola Taylorand we all know
how the nation was gripped with the death of Damilola Tayloras
his envoy. If there was one thing that you would expect Mr Taylor
to do, what is it, one major issue?
Mr Campbell: I think to provide
an authoritative voice which runs alongside but is not part of
the knife action programmeto some extent, if you like,
an alternative campaign, a trusted source of information, someone
who has clearly had a dreadful experience to a member of his family,
and I think to bring that experience to bear and hopefully to
get a hearing for what is a crucially important issue for young
Chairman: This concludes the session.
Our next session is with Rev Jesse Jackson tomorrow. Thank you,