Tonight, I heard some remarkable and shocking accounts of knife and gun crime in Britain and what is to be done about it.
I’ll not repeat the accounts of the crimes themselves: some are too grotesque to publish here. And that is part of the problem. Some young people in some sections of society are today so accustomed to crime and violence that it is difficult to conceive that tougher sentences will deter them. We were told that the death penalty would hold little fear for those who do not expect to live past their early twenties.
It emerged that some young people not only “hate the system” but also that they simply do not care what the law says. By the account of the inspiring young people present at the meeting, tougher sentences for carrying a knife would most likely strengthen those people’s determination to carry one in their rebellion against the law.
Of course we must deploy tough criminal justice against this problem, but we have reached a point where, if we want to stop this cycle of tragedy, we must recognize that gun and knife crime is the fruit of a societal problem and ask what we can do about it.
Five themes were given for causes and solutions:
- Achievements celebrated
It seems that many young people are growing up without love.
I’ll write that again: many young people are growing up without love. For some, no one is telling them that they are cared for and that they are of value. No one is helping them to learn how to behave in society. No one is celebrating their achievements. No one is giving them a hug. And we wonder why they turn to gangs and crime.
In short, the solution lies in people having more to do with one another to build self esteem, character, hope and aspiration in young people. We have to reconnect with one another by free choice: we have to provide role models and opportunity. We have to show young people that we do care, before they turn to crime, and that means each of us freely choosing to involve ourselves with our neighbours.
Society will always have a criminal element – those for whom it doesn’t matter what you do, they will decide to be aggressive and violent. But the level that we have now and that is spilling over into every community and every school is being driven by something else. If you stop for long enough and actually listen to those who are kicking the cans, joining the gangs and shooting up they will speak to you of broken families, of childhood abuse and of a longing to belong.
Meanwhile, I was asked by the youngsters what I do for fun: here is the answer. The way to these things is hard work and decent behaviour and, yes, you can get there from an ordinary background.