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.