Keir Starmer wants to put police on school gates to tackle knife crime

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The Labour leader also pledged to introduce a specific offence of grooming that would allow criminals who drag children into crime to be prosecuted. Sir Keir told the Daily Express tackling crime is a “personal” mission as he launched his party’s plan to cut offending and increase prosecutions.

He said: “It is personal to me. I have devoted my life to criminal justice because I understand the impact crime has on people.”

The former director of public prosecutions said preventing young people being sucked into a life of crime is at the heart of the plan.

He said: “There needs to be a lot of work done at the school gates. I’m not a fan of having knife arches but I am a fan of having a presence outside the schools because I have seen the evidence that that’s where individuals are targeting young people.

“But we also need to make grooming an offence because the fact that you are targeting a child to get them into crime usually involving knives should be an offence in and of itself.

“And this is quite deliberate behaviour.

“One of the most concerning things in terms of the failure of the government at the moment is we are seeing knife crime moving or increasing in non-urban areas.

“I think there is a high likelihood that it is because of county lines.

“So we can see what is happening. There needs to be an iron grip to absolutely deal with this.”

Sir Keir said teachers need to be “absolutely across this” and schools need good provision of mental health services in schools.

“Also, the presence of police officers, to have the school police officers is hugely important.

“I’ve met no end of young people who say ‘whilst my general trust in the police is low, trust in the police officer I know is higher’.

“So there are things that can be done. But we need that presence outside the school gates as well.”

Last year there were over 46,000 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales.

Young men are most likely to be both perpetrators and victims of this crime.

Sir Keir made a deliberate point of reviving Sir Tony Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” slogan, despite the former prime minister being unpopular with many Labour members on the left.

He said it had been depressing to see the same young people repeatedly up in court when he was a prosecutor.

“That’s why that phrase tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime is important,” he said.

“Previously a Labour message, all time a Labour message. We carry that into the election, into hopefully a Labour government, into this mission with us.

“The tough-on-crime bit is really important. I feel, having been a prosecutor for five years, the fact that now there’s a sense that you are not going to get caught, nothing is going to happen, is really, really corrosive.”

The Labour leader said prevention was a benefit for young people and victims.

“If you can stop that young person being pulled in, they will lead a better life, and crucially important, their victims won’t be victims.”

Sir Keir said that as a prosecutor he saw many of cases across England and Wales that have stuck with him as symbols of how the system is failing.

He added: “In my own constituency I had a small number, thankfully, of incidents of boys ending up dead on the pavements of Camden. These are teenagers.

“That is what drove me to, with others, set up the youth safety taskforce.

“We can’t ever accept that this is just the way things are.

“For each of those boys there was a story behind them, which was to do with being drawn into county lines, being drawn into drugs, being drawn into knives, which is why that preventative bit is so important.”

Sir Keir defended London mayor Sadiq Khan over violence rates in the capital, saying he was “sick and tired” of the government “blaming everyone else”

“If you want to tackle knife crime, roll up your sleeves, get people around the table and make it happen.”

The Labour leader will also promise to halve levels of violence against women and girls within a decade.

In a speech setting out his priorities tomorrow, he will say there is a need for police reform and a “proper victims’ law”.

“You can’t defeat misogyny without robust policing, but you can’t have robust policing without defeating misogyny,” he will say.

“We’ll put specialist domestic abuse workers in the control rooms of every police force, responding to 999 calls, supporting victims of abuse. We’ll get a specialist rape unit in every police force.

“And we’ll also set up dedicated rape courts – the current prosecution rates are a disgrace.”

He will say that it is “always working people who pay the heaviest price” for crime, with working class communities too often “living under its shadow”.

Policing Minister Chris Philp said: “Keir Starmer is just saying whatever suits him politically. The truth is, where Labour are in power crime rates are higher.

“Just like Sadiq Khan has let London down with rising knife crime, Keir Starmer has let Britain down by voting against tougher sentences for violent offenders and intervening to stop deportation flights, choosing to keep foreign criminals in Britain.

“Meanwhile, the Conservatives are cutting crime, toughening up sentencing, getting more police on the streets, and protecting victims – keeping the British people safe.”

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