Legal duty on public bodies to tackle knife crime together

By Nina Jacobs

| 17 July 2019

Public sector organisations will be legally bound to work together to tackle serious violence including knife crime under a new duty announced by the government.

Public bodies must share information on knife crime. Image: Viacheslav Iakobchuk/Adobe Stock

Concerns had been raised by councils over the prospect of individual professionals being placed under the public health duty, after Home Secretary Sajid Javid launched an eight-week consultation on the proposal in April.

However, the government confirmed the new requirement would hold organisations to account rather than frontline workers such as teachers, nurses or social workers.

The legal duty will require the police, councils, NHS trusts together with education representatives and youth offending services to share data, intelligence and knowledge.

This would help public services better understand the causes of serious violence and allow them to target their interventions to prevent and stop violence altogether, the government said.

Public bodies will not be burdened with police work since the duty has been designed to build on existing responsibilities and local arrangements, it claimed.

In addition, the government intends to amend the Crime and Disorder Act to ensure serious violence is an "explicit priority" for community safety partnerships including police, fire and probation services.

Javid said he was confident that a public health approach combined with a new legal requirement that made public agencies work together would create "real, lasting long-term change".

"Violent crime is a disease that is plaguing our communities and taking too many young lives.

"It's crucial that we all work together to understand what causes violent crime in the first place, so we can intervene early and prevent this senseless bloodshed," he said.

New guidance is due to published to support the legislation which will provide examples of different partnership models and explain how different organisations and sectors could partner each other.

It will draw on similar public health approaches used in Scotland and Wales which enable services to deliver targeted interventions to stop young people committing violence or being groomed by gangs.

The Local Government Association said it supported a public health approach to tackling serious violent crime.

"Early intervention and prevention needs to be central to this work, as opposed to relying solely on a criminal justice strategy," said Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board.

"This requires the input of a range of partners, including those in the health and education sectors."

Blackburn however raised concerns that the amendments to the Crime and Disorder Act would only create the necessary "step-change" if it is supported with extra funding.

"Government needs to reverse funding cuts to local youth services, youth offending teams and councils' public health budgets, which need to be addressed in the spending review, otherwise we will not be able to tackle serious violence in our communities," he said.

Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnado's, echoed these concerns, adding that it was "vital public bodies receive the resource they need to carry out these responsibilities effectively".

The announcement comes as the London Mayor's office named eight boroughs as the worst for violent youth crime.

Analysis published by City Hall on Monday, using police and NHS data since 2012, listed Westminster, Haringey, Southwark, Lambeth, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Camden and Hackney with the highest victim rates based on the number of attacks on residents under 25.

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