» Monday, August 20, 2007


Asked if the Prime Minister agreed that parts of the country were now inflicted by anarchy, the PMS replied that what both the Prime Minister and the Government as a whole would emphasise was that public protection was the top priority. With reference to knife crime, that was why the Government had introduced a new maximum sentence for carrying knives, doubled from two years to four years. More generally, we of course recognised and appreciated people’s concerns about the high profile cases, especially those concerning young people. As John Denham said yesterday, however, it was also important to recognise that there had been an overall fall in the levels in crime and that people were much less likely to be a victim of crime than they were ten years ago.

Asked if the Prime Minister had plans to look at knife crime issues this week, based on the statistics that were published yesterday, the PMS said that in terms of the statistics, the Home Office’s analysis was that those particular statistics were based on an extrapolation of British Crime Survey figures, and were therefore not the most accurate. However, that was not to say that we didn’t recognise there was a real issue here, and we appreciated people’s concerns. The Prime Minister was kept informed of all developments, and as John Denham had said, there were tough measures that had been brought into place, and it was extremely important that those measures were used and that they were kept under review.

Put that John Denham had also said yesterday that the Government would look at the discounted alcohol available, and did the Prime Minister have any views on that or on raising the age at which people could buy alcohol, the PMS replied that the Government had already set out its position on changing the age at which people could buy alcohol. In terms of working with supermarkets, there was an ongoing programme through the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy which was looking to tackle that particular problem, and of course, we were fully supportive of it.

Asked if the Government had plans to enlist Army officers to tackle gang culture, especially black gangs, the PMS replied that she wouldn’t respond directly to the question, as it referred to a leaked document. If people looked at the report that was published by Hazel Blears recently into the aspirations of young black men, there were a number of measures in there, including mentors.

Asked if the Government accepted that the increase in sentencing from two years to four years was not working and was not deterring young people from carrying knives, the PMS said that we recognised that there were specific issues here. However, overall, we also needed to recognise the fact that violent crime had gone down. With regards to what the Government had done to tackle knife crime, there had been a range of measures introduced in the Violent Crime Act 2006, including the increase of the maximum sentence and raising the age at which someone could purchase a knife from 16 to 18 years old. It also gave school staff powers to search pupils for weapons as well as creating a new offence of minding a weapon for somebody else. Again, if that weapon was a knife, the maximum sentence would also be four years. The PMS said that these were tough new measures that had been introduced, and the important thing was that they were being enforced.

Asked if the Prime Minister shared the previous Prime Minister’s analysis on knife and gun crime which was that this was a localised problem that needed specific tailored responses and that it was not a blanket problem with a blanket solution, the PMS replied that we would have to be guided by police working in areas with specific problems. However, it was a range of measures that was required, rather than one approach.

Asked if there were any plans to confirm what the Home Office thought about knife crime statistics, the PMS said that the Home Office had said that the British Crime Survey did not show a statistically significant increase in the use of knives in violent incidents. 6 to 7% of all violent crime was knife-related which had remained relatively stable for several years. Until April 2007, knife related offences were not separately identified, but police now collected data on knives which would overall give us a better picture of the situation across the country.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Search for related news

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