I continue to spend parliamentary time defending a public-health approach to knife-crime. Teenagers are dying on our streets and we must move beyond arcane, ineffective methods of the past, towards evidence-based solutions that meet our standards of justice and fairness. Deprivation, poverty and a lack of opportunities have resulted from close to a decade of Tory austerity. Far more funding is needed to plug the hole
s left in our youth services, schools, social services, neighbourhood policing and border force that these cuts have made. On the 4th March 2019, I asked the following question to Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for the Home Department:
The public health approach in Scotland also involved a cross-party approach, with much of the work beginning under Labour and continuing under the Scottish National party. The whole House wants the Home Secretary to succeed, but we have been on alert since Tanesha Melbourne-Blake was killed in my constituency on bank holiday Monday almost a year ago. I am grateful to the Home Secretary for allowing me to be part of the taskforce in that cross-party spirit, but the questions today are really about the Government’s grip, because of what we heard from the Health Secretary this morning. What more can the Government do? I ask that question particularly because county lines is being driven by a demand for drugs, and we have cut our Border Force as a result of austerity.
I was pleased to be invited to the opening session of The Serious Youth Violence Summit at 10 Downing Street in April 2019. The Government committed themselves to a cross-system, multi-agency approach – with a wide range of public bodies working closely with community and faith leaders, and the voluntary and charitable sectors taking joint action in local communities. The Summit included several Ministerial-chaired roundtable discussions over the course of the week, covering Best Practice in Law Enforcement; the Role of Education; Investing in Communities; Positive Activities for Young People; Effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System; Creating Opportunities for Young People; and Interventions in Health. More specifically, we discussed the following themes:
Improving join-up across the criminal justice system to deliver innovative approaches that reduce re-offending, recognising that many young children in custody have also been victims of crime.
Developing serious violence support arrangements for victims and witnesses.
Deterring serious youth violence through swift, visible and effective justice.
Protecting the public is the first duty of the government. I fear that increasing levels of violence in London and across the country this will be a recurring theme in my reports to come. However, we must resist reactionary responses that are both ineffective and unjust. Namely, I have resisted Sajid Javid’s attempt to use knife-crime as a means of expanding discretionary police power, which will inevitably be used in a disproportional manner. On the 13th October, I wrote an article in The Guardian entitled Stop and Search is unjust, unfair and ineffectual. In this article, I raised concerns about a racially disproportionate stop-and-search policy, namely in terms of the erosion of trust between certain communities and the police.