Knife crime must be treated like an infectious disease killing our children, Theresa May and Sajid Javid say today.
Unveiling a radical shift in policy, the Prime Minister and Home Secretary will hand hospitals, schools and social services a legal duty to protect youngsters.
Casualty staff and GPs will be obliged to flag up knife wounds or other suspicious injuries so children can be referred to ‘violence reduction units’. Mentoring and education will be used to stop them being dragged into crime and the gang culture.
Teachers and social workers will also be obliged to report danger signs such as truancy and serious misbehaviour. The aim is to intervene ‘long before’ young people ever pick up a weapon.
The move comes amid intense public concern over knife crime. Ten separate stabbing incidents have been reported in the past few days, including one in which a hooded attacker knifed four victims at random during a 12-hour rampage in London.
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Police and emergency workers attend to the Brettenham Road stab victim - the last of four stabbings in Edmonton
Police were hunting for the knifeman after four people were stabbed in random attacks during a 12-hour north London rampage
Forensic teams work at the scene of the stabbing in Edmonton, London, following a spate of knife attacks
Police on the scene near Fore Street, Edmonton, London, near where a person was stabbed just a short distance from where a middle aged woman was knifed
Blood stains the pavement at the scene of a stabbing in Edmonton as a manhunt was underway for a hooded knifeman
The stabbings come after the 31st murder in London so far this year on Friday - and the 14th in March
Today, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary will host a major Downing Street youth violence summit with experts, police chiefs and victims’ families.
In a joint article for the Mail, they say that the loss of lives is horrific, senseless and destructive.
‘This cannot be allowed to continue,’ they write. ‘We must and will use every tool and tactic at our disposal to deter young people from carrying knives. We must treat the threat which knives pose to our society like a disease.’
The new ‘public health’ approach will see Mr Javid launch a consultation today that would impose legal duties on public bodies such as schools and hospitals. It would be very similar to the system in Glasgow, formerly the knife crime capital of Europe, where stab wounds have halved in 12 years.
It also mirrors the anti-terrorism Prevent strategy, set up in 2006, which is used to identify youngsters at risk of being sucked into extremism.
Under the Glasgow model, gang members and those at risk of joining gangs are referred to violence reduction units. There, they are offered mentoring by someone with similar experiences of violence or given opportunities to further their education.
Under the Glasgow model, gang members and those at risk of joining gangs are referred to violence reduction units where they are offered mentoring by someone with similar experiences (stock image)
Doctors are invited into schools to show graphic images of knife wounds and pupils are also taught about the tough sentences for violent crimes.
A consultation on the new strategy will run for eight weeks and establish exactly how the system should work in England.
It will decide how doctors, teachers and social workers would report at-risk pupils and how to impose a legal duty on them to do so.
Violence reduction units already operate in London and the West Midlands but are expected to be expanded there and elsewhere.
In their article for the Mail. the Prime Minister and Home Secretary insist the new approach isn’t about ‘making excuses for criminals’ and anyone caught with a knife will be punished.
Theresa May at Church yesterday near her Maidenhead constituency
But they say the crisis cannot be dealt with by the criminal justice system alone: ‘We cannot try to simply arrest our way out of this situation, dealing with people only after they have broken the law.
‘After all, were it an infectious disease killing our children, you would not expect the authorities to just focus on treating the symptoms – you would rightly demand that we also do everything possible to prevent people getting ill at all.
‘The families of those who have lost loved ones – many of whom will be at the summit today – deserve no less.
‘The loss of a life to knife crime is horrific. It is senseless, destructive and a tragedy for the families, friends and communities of the victims.
‘It is a terrible truth that, disproportionately, it is young people whose lives are being lost in this way.’
Today’s serious youth violence summit will be attended by more than 100 experts including Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, the head of the NHS Simon