Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, has criticised home secretary Sajid Javid’s new scheme to tackle knife crime.
Last week, Javid announced plans for Knife Crime Prevention Orders that targets suspects aged as young as 12 years.
However, Baroness Lawrence feels there are better options to deal with knife crime than “criminalising” children.
“What is really worrying now is [what] the home secretary has announced about 12-year-olds carrying knives, so these kids are going to have a criminal record from the age of 12 and are going to be locked up,” she said.
“You are going to start criminalising [them] at the age of 12. Now I am sure there are other ways of dealing with that.”
One option is to visit schools and educate children on what could happen if they carry knives.
“Kids who have been to prison or youth offenders… come out with a completely different way of dealing. Get those kids in to talk to them,” said Baroness Lawrence.
“The older generation doesn’t actually reach them, so you need the peer to go in and speak to those kids and let them know what the reality is.”
Javid last week said that the Knife Crime Prevention Orders would be imposed on anyone aged 12 or over who police suspect to be carrying a knife, and they could be placed under curfew or have restrictions on their social media use.
A breach of these orders would be a criminal offence punishable by a two-year prison sentence.
Baroness Lawrence is not the only person to criticise Javid’s proposal.
Sarah Jones MP, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on knife crime, told The Guardian that imprisoning someone as young as 12 for breaching the order was disproportionate. “It risks criminalising a generation of young people who have grown up unsupported and who often turn to carrying weapons out of fear,” Jones said.
“The APPG has been pushing for some time for the government to prevent proven knife offenders from using social media to incite violence, but this should not apply to young people if they haven’t committed a crime.”
Javid responded, saying the new order would act as a deterrent and stop youngsters from committing a knife-related offence.
“London communities are being devastated by the blight of knife crime and families are being torn apart. That’s why I am redoubling our efforts to stop this senseless bloodshed,” he was quoted as saying.
“Our brave police officers already have a range of measures to keep our streets safe. But having spoken to senior police leaders, including the Met Commissioner, it is clear there are areas of enforcement we can enhance.
“I am confident these new civil orders will act as a deterrent and stop individuals who are likely to carry, or use a blade, going on to commit a knife-related offence. But we all need to work together to ensure youngsters do not get drawn into a life of crime in the first place.”