The Tories are losing the fight against serious crime. Knife crime offences have reached record levels in the year to December 2017. Homicides involving knifes grew by 22% and violent crime overall has more than doubled in the past five years to a record level. Charge rates for serious crimes have fallen dramatically as the stretched police service struggle to investigate crime.
There is also very little protection for shopworkers which leaves them open to suffer abuse and threatening behaviour at work. This is entirely unacceptable and more needs to be done to give shopworkers the protections they need. I was pleased that this issue was discussed during the Bill’s Committee Stage and I pay tribute to the research that is carried out by Usdaw which shows the number of shopworkers encountering abuse and assaults has increased. Indeed, around 265 are assaulted every day.
While the provisions of this Bill are welcome, they do not go far enough. Labour have fought to enhance protection on the sale and possession of knives, close dangerous loopholes in our gun laws that have been left open too long, force the Home Office to release evidence on the consequences of cuts to vital services on the levels of serious violence and advocate for the rights of victims of crime which have been neglected despite the repeated manifesto promises from the Conservative Party.
However, the Bill ignores much of the key evidence contained in a leaked Home Office report on the drivers of serious violence. This includes compelling evidence that violence is being driven by a precarious and vulnerable youth cohort where support and multi-agency early intervention and prevention work has been cut.
Evidence suggests that interventions aimed at supporting the surging number of young people in care, those who are homeless, or those excluded from school, alongside prevention aimed at educating and supporting parents, carers and teachers would reduce violence among this youth cohort. The Government have completely ignored their own evidence that stretched police resources are hampering police efforts to tackle the surge in violent crime and, with unsolved serious crimes surging, there has been a diminishing of the deterrent effect which is having a deleterious effect on public safety.
As you may know, the Offensive Weapons Bill aims to strengthen enforcement measures primarily on the sale and possession of acid and knives to reduce their availability. Clause 1 of the Bill would make it an offence for a person to sell a corrosive product to a person who is under the age of 18. While I support the limited enforcement measures contained within the Bill I would like to see it strengthened and improved. When it comes to refusing to sell to individuals, it is shop staff who may be attacked or threatened as a result.
The limited enforcement measure within the Bill do nothing to stem the tide of serious crime without measures to address its root causes, a vulnerable cohort of young people without the support they need, an ailing police force unable to police proactively or adequately investigate crimes, and tackle contributory factors such as the effect of social media on fuelling incitement to violence.
Efforts to address the root causes of crime have been dealt a grievous blow by the punishing cuts in youth services and early intervention. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been axed from youth services. 138,000 reduction in the number of youth places available; 3,600 youth workers lost from our communities.
The Police have continuously had their funding cut and there does not appear to be an end in sight for these cuts. Over 21,000 Police Officers have been lost since 2010, over 18,000 Police staff and over 6,800 Community Support Officers have been axed despite promises to protect the frontline.
Labour are calling on Ministers to urgently take steps to recruit 10,000 additional officers to put the Police back on the front foot and tackle violent crime.
The Bill has now passed through the House of Commons and you can read the full debate we had on it here – https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2018-11-28a.280.1&p=25357#g289.1.