This is what justice and policing is really about, not Gerry Kelly

Is there an epidemic of knife crime or not? The red-top headlines scream “Shock new figures reveal a knife crime takes place every 4 minutes”.

Dispassionate analysis offers precious little comfort ” Knives were involved in 6% of all violent incidents in 2007-08 – little change since the 7% of the year before.” 5% of young people are responsible for all youth crime”

For England and Wales, a different sort of action plan from the usual knee jerk clamp down is announced, promising “triple-track action, tougher punishment, earlier intervention and to parents ” non-negotiable support”. The centre left commentator Polly Toynbee describes in the Guardian how deeply government intends to reach into family life.

“The youth justice plan spells out a ladder of interventions, beginning with families at most risk being brought into Sure Start. Young people on first offence will have the chance to avoid court if they and their parents opt together for an eight-week course – pilot schemes show this leads to far less reoffending; and for the 20,000 families whose children have committed repeated crimes there will be intervention in the form of special units for intensive parenting support – an expensive scheme with excellent results”.

I find it very hard to imagine a Northern Ireland where parents of troubled kids are offered “non-negotiable support”, never mind accept it. NI has a long way to go before it reaches that norm.

In Northern Ireland, Paul Goggins, the UK minister in charge of policing and justice repeats the tough talk of doubling sentences. But where was the new follow-up, reaching far into people’s lives? Not a word as far as I can see.Youth crime initiatives with a flavour of restorative justice are not unknown in NI, like this scheme to encourage young people to understand better the consequences of their behaviour by meeting with victims of crime. But other moves like knife amnesties announced with a fanfare in the province two years ago are now held to have been failures.
Where is the big thinking? Doesn’t its apparent absence provide another example of a society still failing to come to grips with itself? Would people support ideas like those referred to by Polly Toynbee? Can you really imagine them taking on the parents? Or setting up a local citizen’s panel to decide what sort of community work a young offender should do? Or the public naming and shaming in court of 16 and 17 year olds and the lifting of reporting restrictions in the case, without the risk of “community punishment” i.e a terrible beating by self appointed guardians”? Or do we believe those days are really coming to an end? Convince me I’m out of date by all means

I can hear Shaun Woodward butting in with “That’s why we urgently need the devolution of justice and policing.” He may have a point, but when you get down to it, how would it make any real difference? Rather than all the politiking over Gerry Kelly or whoever else as minister, when are we going to hear about how to heal society?

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Right wing, tabloid papers creating a moral panic while casting Black people as the bad guys? Why, it’s almost as if tabloids have a political agenda. Next you’ll be telling us that it’s done to sell copies in the silly season.

    The atomisation of society, the demonising of minorities, the victimisation of young people and the refusal of people to pay for better solutions, all suggest things aren’t going to change much. And when government does get involved people in the media and on this site complain about the nanny state.

    Healing society? Big thinking? Please…

  • Rory

    Unsettling as all this publicity about youthful knife-crime is I really think I would feel much more uncomfortable at the thought that I might instead be gouged to death by some young crack-head wielding nothing but a dessert spoon.

    It all comes back to the type of households in which these young people are brought up. Surely well trained servants would know to report to the head of the household all this worrying loss of table cutlery so that early steps be taken to correct it.

  • wild turkey

    ‘I find it very hard to imagine a Northern Ireland where parents of troubled kids are offered “non-negotiable support”, never mind accept it.’

    Brian, you have previously posted on (1) the autonomy of devolved govt and its ability to raise revenue and (2) the emerging notion of ‘the nudge’. Why not combine the two on this thread?

    Firstly, allow me to digress. Admittedly the story that follows is in no way comparable to knive crime or other manifestations of shit behaviour, be it on the part of kids or adults… Nonetheless. Where I live in Belfast, I had a recent problem with some kids using my front gate as a goal for street football. They were kicking the shit out of it. When I asked them to move on they responded by saying that their mom wouldn’t let them play in front of their house. Shortly thereafter a pissed (in both the Irish and American senses) mother appeared at my front door effing and giving off who the fuck was I to tell her kids they couldn’t play football on the street. When I responded by saying let them play by their own house she shot back ‘For fucks sake, it does my head in’…hmmm. Anyway back to revenue and the nudge.

    If it can be shown that on the balance of probabilities that an adults failure to provide adequate and responsible parenting has lead to the shit behaviour of their kids, if the parents refuse to accept non-negotiable support, fair enough. But they are, thinking outside the box here, say then briefly waterboarded. There’s the nudge.

    In terms of autonomous devolved revenue generation, the video, in a Judge Judy format, of the waterboarding is released, initially on a pilot pay per view basis. The audience might be larger than many think. There’s the revenue.

    Needless to say, prior to piloting or implementation, any proposals along these lines would be open to full community consultation and Equality Impact Assessment.

    Whaddya think?

  • 0b101010

    Not enough gun crime hitting the news so they had to run with knife crime. That’s it in a nutshell.

    The sky has to be falling to sell papers to Chicken Lickens.