***UPDATE 23 MARCH 2016***
VICTORY FOR JUSTIN’S WIDOW IN CAMPAIGN FOR SAFER SALE OF KNIVES
Gulsen’s petition received more than 52,000 signatures and has now seen success as the Home Secretary has announced that major retail companies, including Poundland, Tesco, Lidl, Argos and many others, have now agreed formal measures for the safer selling of knives in stores.
Measures now announced include a commitment for law enforcement to conduct follow-up test purchases of knives in 6 months and to provide feedback to retailers to take action to tackle breaches of the law. The government will work with the British Retail Consortium to extend this agreement to other retailers.
The key principles are:
Nicola has vowed to keep up the pressure on retailers to implement these important measures, and the success of the voluntary agreement will be seen in the follow up of test-purchases which must be monitored carefully.
Gulsen, Justin Skrebowski’s widow, said:
Throughout this dreadful time I have not wanted revenge but rather the certain knowledge that no family should ever have to go through what my family has gone through.
I cannot say that this makes me happy because I wish so very much that it had never happened and that Justin was with me and our twins now but it is the only thing that has brought me peace.
***UPDATE 14 MARCH 2016***
The Home Secretary has announced a new drive to tackle knife crime, following Nicola’s campaign on the issue. Theresa May held a roundtable discussion with online and high street retailers to urge them to make it harder to steal knives, reinforcing the importance of their responsibility in preventing knife crime.
The Home Secretary said,
Retailers have an important part to play in preventing knife crime — enforcing age restrictions and displaying knives safely is crucial. I am encouraged by the willingness of major retailers to meet and discuss how we can work together. Knife crime devastates communities.
Further details on this will be announced in the coming weeks, and Nicola will be following developments carefully as she continues to work with Gulsen.
***UPDATE 24 FEBRUARY 2016***
Nicola has joined forces with Justin’s widow, Gulsen, to create a petition addressed to the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, and the Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson urging them to sell knives safely.
Sign Gulsen’s petition here!
The petition calls for retailers to review how knives are displayed, as some shops do lock knives in cases or display them out of reach but sadly many still do not. Gulsen says, ‘I think all shops should put knives in locked cases behind the counter, or in secure packaging, so they cannot easily be taken and used’.
Now that the petition is up and running it is gathering pace, and it now has over 50,000 supporters. Nicola invited Gulsen to come to Westminster and meet with the Home Office Minister, Karen Bradley, who is responsible for preventing abuse and exploitation, and discuss this policy area and the changes she wants to see. The Minister listened carefully to Gulsen and Nicola and said she would take on board Gulsen’s experience and feed this back.
Following this meeting, Nicola went on to speak at an important meeting on knife crime and the display of knives in retail outlets held at New Scotland Yard and attended by senior representatives from the Metropolitan Police and the National Police Chiefs Council as well as national retail representatives from across the sector.
Nicola read aloud Gulsen’s petition, calling on retailers to take action.
Nicola says If we can secure the backing of the Home Office on this, we can ensure the British Retail Consortium makes the safe selling of knives a priority. Bringing Gulsen to meet with the Minister gave her the chance to make her case in person, and the conference at New Scotland Yard really hammered the issue home to retailers and to police.
I will not let the pressure drop here, to me this is common sense. It is vital that we get this right to greater protect people and communities.
Like many local people, Nicola was deeply shocked at the fatal stabbing of Justin Skrebowski in Abingdon Poundland. Local reports were clear that police had responded quickly and an arrest has already been made.
As we all know, our police work often in very difficult circumstances to protect us and across the country the latest statistics show that crime has fallen by 8% on the year. In the Thames Valley, overall crime is at its lowest level for 25 years.
However, in this case, residents are rightly concerned that the perpetrator was able to walk into a supermarket and take a knife off the shelf and kill an innocent stranger. It is right to question whether more should be done to prevent cases like this ever happening again.
Nicola therefore, raised this question with the Prime Minister, at PMQs asking:
The tragic stabbing in Abingdon Poundland last week has shocked local residents. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in sending our condolences to the family of father of two Justin Skrebowski, who was killed in the attack, and to honour the bravery of those who overpowered the attacker with no thought of the risk to themselves. In the light of this attack, does the Prime Minister agree that it is now time for the Government and retailers to work together to make it more difficult for offenders to get hold of offensive weapons in the first place?
The Prime Minister responded,
As my hon. Friend’s constituency neighbour, I was very shocked by what happened in Abingdon, and my heart goes out to the family of those who have suffered. She is right to ask the question about offensive weapons and how available they are, and I am very happy to look at that. Given that attack and the, although unrelated, Leytonstone attack, it is right to look at the resources that our police have in terms of their equipment—there is a very different usage pattern for Tasers, for instance, across the country—and this is something that the Home Secretary, the Metropolitan police and I are discussing.
Nicola has since received a letter from the Prime Minister, which explains how the Government is currently reviewing measures to tackle knife crime; how the problem is being addressed with online retailers; and the new minimum sentence for offenders who repeatedly carry knifes. To view the Prime Minister’s letter, see David Cameron to Nicola Blackwood Dec 2015.
Nicola has also met with Home Office Minister with responsibility for this policy area, Karen Bradley MP, to discuss the issues at hand. Nicola voiced her concerns about agencies identifying potential risks and acting upon them effectively. The Minister agreed with Nicola on the need for early intervention and also to tackle the supply and sale of such weapons.
In February there will be a week of action on knife crime, which Thames Valley Police will be participating in to raise awareness and encourage the sharing of best practice amongst local agencies and police forces.
Nicola will be continuing to raise this with Ministers and relevant local agencies in the area to ensure a coordinated approach.
Nicola says This shocking crime highlights the work still to be done to identify those who pose a risk in our communities; to prevent them from accessing dangerous weapons and to protect innocent people. Our agencies must all work together to address these issues, and I have made clear my view that we also need changes at national policy level.
I look forward to discussing the issues at hand with all of the agencies involved in community safety locally, and will be following up with the Home Office to ensure the public are better protected going forward.