Following the death of Justin Skrebowski in December 2015 in an Abingdon Poundland store, Nicola has been working with his widow, Gulsen Alkan, on her petition to urge retailers to sell knives more safely. This campaign has gained the support of Home Office Ministers who have now brought in a raft of new measures for retailers, and you can find more on this here: Its time to sell knives safely.
But Gulsen and Nicola have also been raising the need for greater coordination between mental health services and police forces. Since learning of Justin’s death, Nicola has discussed early intervention with local frontline agencies in her constituency as well as with Home Office Minister, Karen Bradley MP. Nicola has been pushing for local agencies to work closely together to find an effective way to address issues which potentially overlap for example social care, mental health, police response and emergency response teams.
Nicola asked Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, the following question in the House of Commons on 13 June:
Having pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Justin Skrebowski claiming diminished responsibility, Trevor Joyce was sentenced last week to life imprisonment. Justin’s brave widow, Gulsen Alkan, has already met Ministers in her campaign against knife crime, but this case also raises questions about how well mental health services work with the police. What steps are the Government taking to improve that, and will the Minister please meet us once more to prove that lessons can be learned from this case, and that such a horrific case can never happen again?
The Minister responded:
I am pleased that the family has the courage to want to campaign on knife crime. It is very important that victims feel that they have the confidence to come forward. I am sure that either the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Karen Bradley, or I will be more than happy to meet to discuss this matter. The issue around mental health is at the core of the Bill that is going through the House at the moment. The police must be used as a last resort when it comes to safety. We must make sure that we have a better understanding of mental health issues. Street triage and other such work that is going on at the moment has really helped us with the type of policing that we want to see in the 21st century.
With a new Minister of State now in place at the Home Office, Nicola is following this up with the incoming Minister Brandon Lewis MP as well as with Oxford Health and Thames Valley Police locally to ensure an efficient and effective response at all times.