Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Hackney mums let kids carry knives - Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott was the main speaker in one of the last debates in Parliament on gang crime: full transcript here from

Key points:
Crime statistics - more of a political art than a science
No limits to what kids will do now - stabbing in broad daylight in rush hour (although no mention of the fact that a cop was shot at and then had a gun held at his head last year)
Postcode gangs prevent kids using facilities like London Fields Lido
Negative press and stereotyping
Too few men in Hackney primary schools
Girls in gangs
Gang rape
Disproportionate level of gang violence coming from Turkish/Kurdish gangs
Hackney mum let son carry knife
Witness protection at lower levels of crime needs to be improved - some boroughs not playing ball.

On statistics: "However, as a former Home Office official, I know that it is possible to debate the figures. Such statistics are sometimes a matter of art, rather than science. Fear of gang crime-not just the fear of being the victim, but the fear that mothers have about how safe their children are on the streets-has never been higher in my constituency, despite the welcome drop shown by the statistics."

On what kids will do now: "We all know about schoolboys fighting and, perhaps, about gangs, but what in the culture of this city makes gangs of schoolboys and schoolgirls feel able to stab each other in plain sight during the rush hour? Does that not suggest that we have moved on from the situation 10 or 20 years ago to a very different and alarming situation in which people's loyalty to their gang, their determination to gain respect and their disdain for wider society overrides the caution that kept young people from having knife fights in plain sight, even a decade ago?"

On postcode gangs: "I live on Middleton road in Hackney. One end of the road is dominated by the Holly Street gang-it is the gang next door to me-and the other end is dominated by the London Fields gang. I remember on my way home one evening talking to a young boy who was complaining that there was nothing to do in Hackney. I asked him, "What do you mean there is nothing to do? The council has just built a brand new swimming pool in London Fields." He said, "But you don't understand. For me to walk from here"-we were at my end of the road-"up to the London Fields lido means going into the territory of the London Fields gang, and I just can't do that." One can exaggerate the issue of postcode gangs, but they are real, and they affect how young people, certainly in my borough, feel able to live their lives.

On when the Evening Standard wouldn't cover a celebration of achievements by Hackney kids because none of them were former gang members:
When we tried to interest the Evening Standard in the event by saying that it was to be held at the House of Commons, that we would have celebrities and that we would give awards to children who had 11 A*s at A-level, we encountered great resistance. Finally, it rang and asked, "Are any of these young people ex-gang members?" We said, "No", and it said that it was not interested."

Too few men in Hackney primary schools to provide role models: "
I have visited a number of primary schools in my constituency in recent months and, with some exceptions, there is an absence of men in the classroom. All the evidence suggests that young black men, particularly-and, I suspect, working class young men more generally-need to see men in the classroom; men taking education seriously. Even if teachers cannot be recruited, men could come and read to them, making a marked difference to their aspirations and their notions of masculinity."

Hackney mum let her son carry a knife: "I was very shocked by one parent whom I saw at an advice surgery. A young boy came in and said to me that he was in trouble for carrying a knife at school. He told me that he had carried it to defend himself and his mother said, "Yes, he did carry it to defend himself and I allowed him to carry it to school to defend himself". The hon. Gentleman has raised a very important point about the role of parents and emphasised the importance of educating parents and working with them. Parents should know that there can be no circumstances in which they should collude with their child's taking a knife to school and I said that to that mother.

Witness protection: "On the question of witness protection, is my right hon. Friend aware that a key issue for some of my constituents is that they need to be moved away from people who might take revenge on them? What are the Government doing to ensure that all London boroughs contribute to the pool of accommodation available in such cases? The problem is that some boroughs are not contributing to that, which makes it hard to move people.

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