» Monday, July 14, 2008

Knife Crime

Asked why there had been talk of the Home Secretary performing a "u-turn" on knife criminals attending A&E, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) replied that the Home Secretary had made the position quite clear at Home Office Oral Questions. What the Home Secretary and the Home Office had been talking about, and had been clear about throughout, was developing Knife Referral Schemes. These were schemes whereby those who perpetrated knife crimes were made aware of the consequences of their actions. This could include for example talking to doctors or other healthcare professionals, that was what the Home Secretary and the Home Office had been talking about. As the Prime Minister said this morning, this was only one proposal in what was quite a wide-ranging package, and obviously when we were talking about Knife Referral Schemes, as the Home Secretary was talking about yesterday, she did say that these would be developed with the Youth Justice Board, and obviously any proposals would need to be implemented with both common sense and sensitivity.

Asked if the common sense and sensitivity related to the way that the original intention was briefed at the weekend, the PMS replied that he did not really want to get into a discussion on how various proposals were briefed or not briefed, or how media organisations decided to report them. The key thing was that the Home Secretary had made the position clear in the last half hour.

Asked about the 20,000 families that would go into Family Intervention Projects, the PMS replied that 110,000 families had been identified as being at risk of becoming high rate offending, and these had been identified by local authorities, and of that 110,000 we would expect that around 20,000 would require contact through Family Intervention Projects. This was almost twice as many as previously projected, so we were expanding that programme. A Family Intervention Programme would mean that there would be a key worker usually appointed by the Local Authority who would be responsible for a family, and there would then be discussions or a contract drawn up with the family outlining how they might be expected to behave, and how these families might then engage with social services. So the 20,000 figure was the Family Intervention Projects, a scheme that was already up and running but that we were looking to expand, and this was essentially intensive support for those families who were responsible for a significant proportion of anti-social behaviour.

Asked what the punishments were for breach of contract, the PMS replied that this was something that would need to be discussed with the key workers. Clearly there were a number of options that might be available such as children being taken back into care, but obviously measures such as that would only be taken in extreme circumstances.

Asked if all 110,000 would be subject to Parental Orders, or whether this was simply the pool from which the 20,000 were drawn, the PMS replied that his understanding was that the 110,000 was the number of families that the Local Authorities had identified as being potentially at high risk of becoming high rate offending families. Obviously it was quite likely that a significant proportion of those families would be subject to Parental Orders, or Anti-Social Behaviour Orders or similar.

Asked what was particularly worse then about the 20,000, the PMS replied that the 20,000 were the highest risk that were deemed worthy of more intensive support.

Put that the Government was looking at this "through the wrong end of the telescope", and that these people had been identified a social problem who needed help, when surely they should be punished and condemned, the PMS replied that he was saying that these people presented a risk of offending. Obviously, as the Prime Minister was saying, we needed to ensure that parents were made responsible for the actions of their children. That was why the support available through the Family Intervention Project came with conditions attached.

Asked if there was a "secret cohort" of families who were not at risk of offending because they were already offending, the PMS replied that if they were offending they were being dealt with by the criminal justice system in the normal way. There was a distinction between those who were offending, and those who needed to be dealt with, and dealt with firmly. But this was part of the prevention agenda, where we were intervening early in order to try and deal with problems art an early stage.

Asked if the Family Intervention Projects was the scheme where people lost their council houses and had their children taken into care, the PMS replied that this was clearly one sanction that was potentially available, but obviously the protection of the interests of the children would be paramount in those cases. But that was why a key worker would be appointed to a family to make sure that any decisions taken were not detrimental to the interests of the children.

Asked if the Councils had enough staff at the moment to deal with this, the PMS replied that he had no reason to think that this was not the case.

Put that this was a plan that Tony Blair had outlined two years ago, the PMS replied that we were effectively announcing a doubling of the scale. We were not suggesting that this was a new proposal in relation to Family Intervention Projects.

Asked what the Prime Minister would say to those who said that Family Intervention Projects and Knife Referral Schemes was the "nanny state gone mad" and that villains should be locked up in prison, the PMS replied that we were clear that there should be a presumption to prosecute in relation to knife crimes. We had increased the sentences for knife crimes, but we must also make sure that young offenders were fully aware of the consequences of their actions.

Asked about Community Payback Schemes, and did we have any idea about the scale of these proposals, the PMS replied that it was best to check with the Home Office.

Asked whether the Prime Minister was in favour of people wearing identifiable clothing, the PMS replied that there were a number of proposals that were out for consultation. The Prime Minister agreed with the general principle that people should be made to, and be seen to, make a contribution back to the community.

Asked again if the Prime Minister was in favour of this or not, the PMS replied that there were a number of different ways to increase the visibility of Community Payback Schemes, and that was what was being considered.

Asked if the Government was still keen on restorative justice where people meet victims, and victims meet their perpetrators, the PMS replied that the position on that had not changed. But of course this would be implemented in a sensitive and common sense way.

original source.

Briefing took place at 16:45 | Search for related news

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