Journalists encounter the very best – and worst – of our communities.
Among the worst issues I have had to deal with in my career is knife crime, a persistent problem which is sadly getting worse rather than better, according to national statistics.
As a trainee in 2014, I reported on the most horrific court case, where complications following a stabbing saw the victim lose both his arms and legs.
At the time, the judge issued a stark warning: “All those who use knives must realise the consequences for them.”
Despite the case receiving national publicity, unfortunately this was not a watershed moment. The issue was too big for a single incident to prompt a major turnaround in the minority’s attitude to carrying deadly knives.
This case was shocking enough. But when I embarked on a four-month national investigation with the top journalists from around our company, the picture appeared to be even more drastic.
Our investigation into knife crime in schools was the first time a national picture of the issue had been compiled.
At the outset, in spite of some worrying trends, it is fair to say that the majority of young people progress through their school lives without encountering knives.
But equally, what was bubbling under the surface was described by the Solicitor General as ‘frightening’ and should be sobering enough to make us sit up and think. Click here for the summary story, which hit the front page of the ‘i’.
Months later, youth knife crime was back on our agenda, as one of our town centres played host to a nasty daytime incident which saw three people attacked with a blade by a 16-year-old boy.
Yesterday, the boy was sentenced for a trio of offences. After careful consideration, we challenged and overturned a legal restriction which had prevented us identifying the teen concerned, due to his age.
It reignited the recurring theme which had cropped up throughout my career – and now a parent I wondered what the situation would be like when Albie was older.
It is all too easy to say education is the key to prevention. It’s not rocket science. Sharp, pointy objects are a danger to humans and any interaction between the two must come with the understanding that it could prove fatal.
Granted, knife crime is almost certainly impossible to eradicate but the more everyone pulls together, the stronger chance we have of reducing, rather than increasing, incidents.
When we concluded our investigation, we penned a plan. It included the need to adequately fund youth services, schemes for widespread school/police officer partnerships and education programmes teaching life skills, as well as the usual core subjects.
We as parents all have a key role to play in warning our offspring about the dangers – but it’s not a battle we can win on our own.
To finish on a positive, we realised as journalists that some of the recent coverage locally on knife crime may have risked a skewed impression that every young person was a danger.
We were delighted to speak to a group for young people who championed everything that was positive about their generation – and every one of them was someone that would make any parent proud.