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Nick Herbert calls for action following knife attacks
3 August 2007Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called for new action to tackle violent crime after a spate of stabbings on the Sussex coast.
July began with the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old boy at a seaside party in Lancing. It ended with a 22-year-old man being stabbed to death in a street in Brighton and a middle-aged man being knifed in Worthing.
The Shadow Justice Secretary responded to the attacks with a hard-hitting article in the Argus.
He wrote: "Sixty years after Brighton Rock, a new generation of Pinkie Browns are on our streets. Like Graham Greene's young monster, they seem addicted to violence.
"Fatal stabbings may be relatively rare but they have increased nationally by nearly a fifth in the past ten years.
"While much attention focuses on gun crime, almost a third of homicides are caused by knives - three times the number caused by guns. In fact, knives are now involved in 150,000 violent crimes a year.
"We cannot be complacent about the prevalence of knives in youth culture today. Two years ago a survey conducted for the Youth Justice Board found, disturbingly, that almost one in three young people in mainstream schools had carried a knife."
Mr Herbert used the example of a pregnant woman being mugged and punched in the stomach in front of her two year old child in the centre of the village of Storrington to show that violent crime is no longer confined to urban areas.
The latest crime statistics show a rise in offences of violence against the person in Sussex over the past year, compared to a 1 per cent fall nationally.
Highlighting the "zero tolerance" example of New York in the 1990s, which saw a 70 per cent reduction in homicides in just eight years under the leadership of Mayor Guiliani and Commissioner Bratton, Mr Herbert criticised the Government for being "extraordinarily slow to react to mounting public concern over violent crime" and said that legislation, which the Government has increasingly relied upon to tackle violent crime, is "useless unless it is enforced" and that "law enforcement requires police officers on our streets."
While the Government claims to have increased police numbers, many of them are tied up with paperwork in police stations, with less than a fifth of a police officer's time spent on the beat.
Maintaining a visible police presence on the streets of Sussex has been made more difficult by Gordon Brown's decision as Chancellor to freeze the Home Office budget, resulting in the number of Police Community Support Officers promised for the county being cut by 171.
Mr Herbert argued that "when offenders are caught and convicted they should serve their sentence so that the public is protected and victims feel that justice has been done."
The recent early release of prisoners by the Government to help it ease prison overcrowding has seen nearly 2,000 offenders being released up to 18 days before the end of their sentence. Locally, 17 prisoners have been released from Ford Prison early and nine from HMP Lewes.
The risk of releasing offenders early was demonstrated recently by the case of Sean Henry, a murderer jailed for kicking and beating a person to death, who was released early from prison only to go on to commit a £50,000 robbery in Horsham in which a man was shot.
Addressing the causes of violent crime, and how society can aim to tackle them, Mr Herbert said:
"Family breakdown, a lack of male role models, failing schools and the increasing prevalence of drugs are all factors that enable a culture of violence to thrive and help to glamorise weapons.
"While I know that mending our broken society can't be achieved by political gestures, violence can be tackled.
"What's needed is tough law enforcement, determined social action and real political leadership, as Mayor Guiliani showed in New York City, to make our streets safe again."
Notes to Editors
1. Nick Herbert's article in the Argus on 31 July can be found at http://www.theargus.co.uk/search/display.var.1584013.0.knife_thugs_should_face_zero_tolerance.php
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