Serious Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:18 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 9:18 pm, 18th February 2019

I shall be mentioning policing in Scotland, so I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. My wife is a serving police officer, although she is actually in her final week of work before taking maternity leave as we prepare for the arrival of our first child in a few weeks’ time.

Much of my remarks, while focusing on some elements that are devolved in Scotland, will be based on my experience as a member of the Home Affairs Committee, because we are currently undertaking an inquiry into serious violence. I have to say that the evidence session we had last October with parents of children who had died as a result of serious violence was one of the most compelling I have sat through. I feel it appropriate to repeat some of the evidence that we heard in the Committee, because it really puts into perspective what we are discussing this evening.

Philippa Addai’s son Marcel was stabbed 14 times by a gang of seven in September 2015. Yvonne Lawson’s son Godwin was stabbed while trying to break up a fight involving some of his friends. Yvonne’s testimony about her reaction on being told what had happened to her son was compelling. She said:

“I remember being at home. There was a knock on the door. Typically, I just thought it was Godwin knocking on the door. There were three police officers who came to tell us that Godwin lost his life. I remember hearing that word that Godwin died. I was in denial… I just kept ringing Godwin’s number. I just could not believe that the police officers were saying that Godwin has taken his last breath on the street alone.”

Caroline Shearer, whose child Jay was also killed, recalled how she put on perfume when she was told by the police to go to the hospital. It was an irrational thing to do, but that is what she remembers. The next thing she remembers is being in the back of the police car and getting out at the hospital, where an officer bent down to tell her that her son had died before she could see him. The next thing she tried to do was steal that officer’s Taser and put it in her mouth. Finally, Darren Laville’s son Kenichi Phillips was shot dead in 2016. Kenichi had a whole life ahead of him and had just that day been given a new job as a personal trainer.

Those four testimonies have stayed with me since our evidence session in October, but there were positive legacies. Each and every family were determined that their child would not die in vain and have started charity work to ensure that more youths are saved from that end, which will hopefully complement the work that the Government and all parties are doing on serious violence.

I would like to focus on some of the elements that affect Scotland. I am fortunate that my Moray constituency does not have a particularly high crime rate, but, as the Home Secretary said, county lines affect us all. A crime that starts in London can progress right up to Aberdeen and potentially across to Moray, so it is important that Government investment here is matched at a UK level, and I know that work is ongoing in Scotland to deal with county lines.

I agree with Gavin Newlands about the pioneering violence reduction unit. It is important that we treat violence as a disease that is preventable and not inevitable. However, the Scottish crime and justice survey shows that at least two thirds of crime in Scotland goes unreported. It goes on to say that the result of violence in Scotland is more likely to be seen in A&E departments than police stations, because more people go directly to hospital than report it to the police. While I welcome the figures that the hon. Gentleman quoted about violence reducing in Scotland, we have to realise that a large amount of violence is unreported.

A number of Members want to speak in the debate, so I will make my final plea to the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Victoria Atkins. The Home Secretary was clear that he is looking at all options to reduce knife crime and the fatalities caused by it. My constituent Hugh Broadley, who came to my surgery in Buckie on Friday, believes he has designed a knife that can significantly reduce the number of fatalities from knife crime. Will someone from the Department meet me to look at his designs? It is important that we listen to all offers to deal with this issue, and if Hugh Broadley believes that his design could prevent just one death, that is important. I would welcome any opportunity to discuss that important matter with the Minister or the Home Secretary.