Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Thomas Dennison (OWB162)

I’m Thomas Dennison, I’m a registered manager of a children’s home in Cumbrian, apart of A Wilderness Way LTD that has dealt with over the last 18 months increased referrals for young people coming from gang lifestyles. This lifestyle includes the use of offensive weapons to run their respective organisations and all that means and entails. The service I run has been utilised by officers in the MET Police to send young people out of the area to safeguard them and hopefully turn them around, which we have managed to do on many occasions. We are seeing more and more of the same referrals, with the same stories and background coming to us as a company and with the same needs and associated trauma attached to them.

· The ease of picking up offensive weapons

· Education in youth and school settings

· Impact on the health system

· Trauma informed practice

I find it somewhat fascinating that from my experience of dealing with the youth of today and the information they pass to me about what they have been up to, it is easier to pick up an offensive weapon and cause significant harm, than it is for me to get a loan to by a boat. The amount of checks that, for example, getting a small personal loan is more than the checks you have to go through to source and buy offensive weapons. We should really be regulating the digital age more, and surely there should be digital ID check, scan photo id to ensure we are trying to safeguard who we are selling these weapons to.

These weapons are falling into the youth’s hands to carry out attacks as directed by their peers or gang members, others are now carrying weapons due to the threat they feel on the street with the amount of people carrying and using weapons. We should surely be tightening up on the supply of these weapons, stricter checks, more regulation on suppliers and stores that sell these items and people held accountable if they are being sold to the wrong people. Would fines be a big enough deterrent? I’m not sure but that coupled with having a licence to sell these weapons and liquids would mean we could try and keep a track on who is selling what and giving a line of accountability that agencies and law enforcement can track and trace.

We need to educate in youth settings and schools around the dangers of these offensive weapons and the ripple affect of them on others. This has worked well for me as a registered manager when working with some of these young people that have ben apart or around these various weapons, educating them about the effect they have on others and talking about the victims and their families. We are lucky that the setting I work in it is an intensive environment that has very little distractions. But by bringing in guest speakers into schools and youth settings who have had experience of this violence and using case studies, you can start to make a difference. If there is a pool of money available to have this used nationwide to increase awareness and education, you would start to see a change in some people’s mindset.

The ongoing cost to the health service is significant, not just to the injuries sustained to people, but the associated therapy, poor mental health afterwards and what this brings in ill health. This adds significant unaccounted costs to budgets for all departments. This links into unprocessed trauma and how also victims of these attacks can become perpetrators themselves to seek revenge or to mimic what they have experienced. This leads to more people looking to carry these weapons, if they don’t get the help and support they need from our health professionals. It is key at point of any referral to highlight these people to prevent they themselves dropping into this vicious cycle.

Professionals working in youth settings, health service, street workers etc that are dealing with people associated with knife crime need to have awareness or training around Trauma Informed Practice. ACE’s that started in America and is starting to gain a foot hold over here is a good way to help professionals dealing with young people to understand where they are coming from. ACE’s are Adverse Childhood Experiences, there is a growing knowledge base around this, but basically a child that has an adverse experience or experience(s) impacts on them going forward, be it neglect, exploitation, violence, the list goes on. The trauma the young people have been through or have been subjected to, affect how they manage going forward. This is the same for adults, and I don’t believe there is enough support out there to help and guide those that are dealing with the effects of unprocessed trauma.

I’ve attached a link, which is from Gavin McKenna who is an ex-gang member and working with those who are involved in or have been apart of gangs. He is starting to be brought in by Local Authorities to help tackle and advise where they have a problem with gangs and youth disorder. It talks about the unspoken trauma that these people go through, something that has been unspoken about and something we should be highlighting and putting support structures in place to deal with. As I spoke about in the health section, if we do not help and support those that have been through those adverse experiences, they will continue to gravitate back to what they know and where they feel safe. Another video again highlights from another member of gangs who has been apart of the violence on the streets, he again chose what he chose out of fear and survival. If we don’t tackle the issue of fear and people feeling like they have to turn towards carrying weapons and joining gangs, we will never be able to remove the issue of people feeling the need to protect themselves. We need to remove these people ruling by fear off the street with tougher penalties, to send out a message that people are going to clamp down on this current trend and make the streets safe again. If this happens, and people start to feel safer and don’t see the need to side with these individuals who groom them into gangs or encourage to carry weapons, the numbers taking up "arms" on the streets will start to decrease.

This has been targeted more from the youth view as that is my background and profession, however it can be easily applied to other settings and groups. However, if you tackle the problems early on then you can help try to prevent issues as they move into adulthood. After all, it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

September 2018


Prepared 6th September 2018