Robert's Weekly Swindon Adver Article - 27th September 2017

In my work as a Barrister, before I became an MP, I dealt with lots of cases involving knives and young people and witnessed first-hand the devastating effects that knife crime can have on a community so I was glad to see Swindon Borough Councillor for Eldene and Dorcan, Kevin Parry and Parish Councillor Zachary Hawson join forces with police officers and metal detectorists at the weekend to search Swindon parks for knives. This followed a week-long police operation which saw young volunteers attempt to buy knives at 50 shops across the town. Seven stores sold knives to underage teenagers and were visited by police following the operation.

As a Barrister, when questioning young people about their reason for carrying a knife, I was told over and over again that they were doing it for their own protection. The sad truth is that many of the knives carried by young people have then been used against them when a fight or another disturbance occurred. The message remains clear, carrying a knife is not only dangerous for the rest of us, but it is actually dangerous for the person carrying the knife themselves.

Every year, Police forces across the country take part in Operation Sceptre to target knife crime. Police activity here in Wiltshire includes weapon sweeps, intelligence led stops, as well as proactive operations to tackle those wanted in question with knife related offences and violent crime. A significant part of activity in Wiltshire also includes providing educational presentations to young people in schools. The presentations aim to make young people think about the decisions they make and the consequences of their actions that could lead to them embarking on a life of crime.

It is the job of the Government to keep abreast of trends in knife crime and to try and stay ahead of it by making sure that the law is up to date. In my role as Solicitor General and as a member of a Ministerial Group on knife crime, I am involved in this directly.

The law has already been changed to deal with possession of a knife on school premises and the government is currently looking at the sale of knives and whether those purchased online should be delivered to your door, or if there needs to be a further safeguard, whereby, for example, you go to your local post office to pick up your items and show identity to prove your age. We don’t want to affect legitimate businesses, which sell items that are needed or appropriate, but it is important to look at underage possession and remain constantly vigilant to any loopholes that allow youngsters to get hold of knives too easily. The Government will be consulting on this throughout the autumn.

There is often a lot of boosting on social media during court cases involving violent crime and this can affect the course of a trial. The government is also currently consulting on whether the law in this area is adequate.

My message to people out there who think it is big and clever to carry a knife is that it isn’t. It is dangerous and stupid and could be used against you. A knife is a weapon of lethal force just as a gun is and possession and the use of knives will be taken very seriously and dealt with appropriately in court.

Finally, I am sad to learn of the death of Tony Martin, Zurich Community Foundation’s UK Volunteering Manager. Tony was an inspirational figure whose work in the voluntary sector was of national significance. His work as Chair of Involve Swindon broke new ground in bringing together the public sector and local companies in order to improve volunteering opportunities for employees. He believed in Swindon and what we have to offer. It was an honour to have known him and his death is a huge loss.