Agenda and draft minutes

Select Committee - Knife Crime in Kent - Tuesday, 11th June, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Darent Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Gaetano Romagnuolo  03000 416624 - Email:

Note No. Item





There were no apologies for absence.



Interview with Joanna Brennan, Head of Innovation and Engagement (South East & East), Youth Justice Board pdf icon PDF 92 KB

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1.            Ms Brennan introduced herself and explained that her role as Head of Innovation and Engagement included overseeing the performance of Community Youth Justice Services and creating and maintaining regional relationships with partners.  She presented a series of slides which set out the role, background and activity of the Youth Justice Board (YJB), some statistics to illustrate the scale of serious youth violence and the Board’s strategic response to this. She ended by emphasising the Board’s approach to the treatment of young people - ‘child first, offender second’.


2.            Ms Brennan then responded to comments and questions from the committee, including the following:-


a)    it was confirmed that the statistics included in the presentation were national, but figures for the South East could be provided, so the committee would be able to identify the scale of the problem just in Kent;


b)    Kent did not appear in the first quartile of statistics for serious youth violence so was not judged to have a sufficiently severe problem to have been included in the recent YJB Pathfinder reference group;


c)    asked to comment on the significance of ethnicity when reporting knife crime statistics, Ms Brennan explained that it was important to record ethnicity in justice statistics in order to highlight any areas of disproportionality.  Ms Brennan referenced the Lammy Review which identified that BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) children were disproportionately more likely to be stopped and searched by police, and the Timpson review which identified that black children had an increased likelihood of being excluded from school. Ms Brennan explained that there was a need to know where disproportionality exists so the reasons and the impact of this could be understood and addressed;


d)    the speaker remained concerned about the likely public perception of how ethnicity was being presented in this context and asked if the Boardhad evidence of the social groups to which young people involved in knife crime belonged, for instance, if a higher proportion might be expected to belong to categories D and E than to A, B or C.  It would be helpful to be able to see a wider range of information. Ms Brennan explained that the YJB did not collect this information;


e)   asked what support had been offered by the Government to help the Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) support youth who were at risk of becoming involved in serious crime, Ms Brennan explained that the Minister for Youth Justice seemed to understand the pressures and that, whilst there was a reduction to the core youth justice grant of less than 1% to some YOTs, compared to last year, others facing particular challenges or developing whole-system solutions would receive more than in 2018/19, and that, overall, the allocation through the front line would be greater in 2019/20, in cash terms, than last year.  The government had announced several different funding streams to address serious youth violence (SYV) that local areas can apply for. However, Ms Brennan recognised that the short-term nature of some of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.


Motion to exclude the press and public for exempt business


It was RESOLVED that, under Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 1 and 2 of part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.


EXEMPT ITEM (open access to minutes)


11:00 - 11:45


Interview with Alan Wood, Business Community Engagement Manager, Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service, Her Majesty's Prison/Youth Offender Institution Standford Hill, and two residents of Standford Hill, Mr T and Mr M pdf icon PDF 193 KB


1.            Mr Wood explained to the Select Committee that Standford Hill was an open prison on the Isle of Sheppey, which released its residents back into the community.  He and Mr T and Mr M had been happy to attend to help the Select Committee with its understanding of knife crime as Mr T and Mr M had both committed knife crimes.


2.            Mr M told the committee that he had been in prison since 2008, when he was 16, so had served 11.5 years. He had come from South London and had grown up with gang culture since he was 11, and this was the culture and lifestyle he understood and had been attracted to. Since being in prison, however, he had realised that a better use of his time was to work constructively to help others to understand the dangers of gang culture and avoid them repeating the mistakes he had made.  He had changed and now had a chance to do better in his life.


3.            He then talked about the offence for which he was arrested – a fatal stabbing of a young man by a large number of people. Mr M and his friends had been young and naïve and been drawn into the gang which was carrying out the attack.  Seven young men had been found guilty of murder and been given life sentences, but three, including Mr M, had not been directly involved. When the case came to trial, it had been an eye opener to be found guilty of ‘joint enterprise’ – knowing about a crime being committed but doing nothing to stop it.  As they had run away and not taken a direct part in the attack, they had thought they would not be found guilty. They had seen the incident being reported the next day on the news.  His life had changed from that point.  The whole experience had been a lesson in the need to be aware of who he spent time with.


4.            The Chairman thanked Mr M for sharing this very frank account and acknowledged the remorse he had shown since and the integrity with which he now conducted himself.


5.            Mr M went on to say that he had not consciously ‘joined a gang’; it was just a group of local friends spending time together to get out of the house.  They all came from single-parent homes, had no father figure in their lives, and had mothers who worked at two or three jobs to support their families; the group of friends became their new ‘family’.  They started to do stupid things out of boredom.  Youth clubs were being shut down and there was nowhere to go.  He had started to smoke weed at 11 and he and his friends had thought they looked cool.  They aspired to get what they saw older boys had, and committed themselves to trying to get those same things.  There was no-one to tell them to avoid bad influences.  The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

12:00 - 12:45


Interview with Tanya Gillett (Head of Service, Youth Offending Service, Essex County Council) pdf icon PDF 94 KB

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1.            Ms Gillett introduced herself and her role as Head of the Youth Offending Service (YOS). She had been the Head of Service since the service had first been established and had set up the first pathfinder children’s trust and other projects. 


2.            Essex YOS had received an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating at its most recent inspection, for the way in which it worked collaboratively with children’s and families teams and other partners and its steady and consistent approach. She pointed out, however, that any inspection represented only a snapshot in time, and at the time of the inspection the number of NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training) had been very high.


3.            Although Kent and Essex shared many common issues around youth offending, their service models were different, with Essex having its within its Youth Justice system. Essex took the view that its YOS needed to include a wide range of skills to match the complexities of the work it tackled.  Much work was done with children and families as youth crime was part of a larger picture of troubled families coping with issues such as low aspirations and lack of positive role models. In establishing a YOS, it was important to realise that this was on ‘shifting sands’, as the challenges it faced would change constantly, eg county lines and knife crime. Essex was particularly vulnerable to these threats and had been a target for county lines activity and increasing youth crime for the past 3 or 4 years. It had to have regard to, and fully address, the level of risk when deploying its services, and would do this by liaising fully with its partners and the police. It would look at work being done by the Met police and in cities such as Liverpool and Manchester but had to accept that violent youth crime was also happening in Essex and Kent.


4.            Work with children’s services would help to identify young people who were at risk of being groomed. In Essex there were many independent providers of services for children and young people, including those providing supported accommodation.  London Boroughs bought up large numbers of properties in Essex and placed families there, who then became the responsibility of Essex services.  These families might bring with them organised crime from inner London, which Essex then had to deal with. 


5.            The county lines model was very nimble and could change its operating model quickly to keep up with changes in activity, which was an important advantage. It was important also to develop an appropriate multi-agency crime framework which could be shared by community safety partnerships, the County Council, the police, etc, under the banner of ‘Safer Essex’, to address violence and vulnerability.  Multi-agency teams built to put this framework into operation would include an officer seconded from the YOS as well as a Detective Inspector from Kent Police, a co-ordinator and, hopefully soon, a data analyst, to understand what needed to be done to address  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

13:00 - 13:45



14:00 - 14:45


Claire Ray (Head of Service, Education Safeguarding service, Kent County Council) and Claire Ledger (South Kent Area Safeguarding Adviser, Kent County Council) pdf icon PDF 109 KB

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Claire Ray (Head of Service – Education Safeguarding) and Claire Ledger (Area Safeguarding Advisor – South Kent) were in attendance.


(1)  The Chairman welcomed the guests to the Committee.


(2)  Ms Ray and Mrs Ledger introduced themselves to the Committee and briefly talked about the work of The Education Safeguarding Service.


(3)  Ms Ray and Mrs Ledger presented a series of slides to the Committee, which covered the following key points:


·         The background and role of The Education Safeguarding Service, including the duties and tasks undertaken by the service on behalf of Kent County Council and the services which could be commissioned directly by schools, including training.

·         Statutory safeguarding responsibilities, Statutory and Non-Statutory guidance for schools and Early Years settings.

·         How safeguarding support was provided to schools in Kent.

·         Multi-agency working.

·         The effective initiatives and strategies.

·         What Kent County Council could do to support safeguarding activities.

·         The challenges that schools in Kent were faced with in relation to safeguarding issues.

·         The importance of recognising and understanding risks and responding to concerns relating to safeguarding.

(4)  Referring to the enablement of a ‘safe space’ within schools to discuss issues

Ms Ray said that the reference to a safe space within the presentation related to multiagency working and for all of those who were working with children and their families to feel confident in clarifying issues and asking questions without fear of being criticised. Mrs Ledger said that it was important for professionals to feel comfortable when discussing challenging issues such as knife crime and this was something the Education Safeguarding Service provided with schools feeling able to pick up the phone to ask questions in relation to any safeguarding issue, including knife crime.


(5)  What are the emerging themes in relation to the Safeguarding training undertaken within schools and why does the service not specifically focus on knife crime?

Ms Ray said that the Safeguarding training provided to schools by The Education Safeguarding Service covered a range of different topics such as gang-related crime, the use of weapons etc, there was no training that focused specifically on knife crime as an independent issue. She added that The Education Safeguarding Service offered conferences with a variety of presentations which explored the vulnerabilities of children and young people including extremism and gang culture, it was important that the vulnerabilities that affected children were seen holistically rather than each issue being addressed separately. It was also noted that schools were under no obligation to use training provided by the service, although in reality most did.


In relation to the levels of knife crime in Kent County Council,Mrs Ledger said that the Education Safeguarding Service were aware of data collated by UK Police forces on incidents of knife crime and believed that in comparison, to other areas of the UK, incidents that involved Kent children were relatively low. She emphasised the importance of ensuring that all staff with schools were trained on safeguarding issues which included increasing the awareness of knife crime. Mrs Ledger  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

15:00 - 15:45


John Coull (Detective Superintendent, Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate Intelligence, Kent Police) and Guy Thompson (Chief Inspector - Partnerships & Communities, Kent Police) pdf icon PDF 183 KB

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The Chair welcomed the guest to the committee and asked them to introduce themselves and provide an outline of the roles and responsibilities that their posts involve.


John Coull, Detective Superintendent, Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate Intelligence, Kent Police


John Coull is a Kent Police Officer with 24 years’ service, predominantly within crime investigation and intelligence. With extensive experience in dealing with proactive and serious crime investigation in East and North Kent, including Medway Council, John has led on murder, serious sexual assault and serious violence investigations.


Prior to joining the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate in 2016, John was the lead officer for the Margate Task Force, responsible for the delivery of multi-agency, multi-disciplinary service to diverse and complex communities in Thanet. This included facilitating the first Home Office Ending Gangs and Youth Violence peer review in the County.


John contributed to the development of the Kent and Essex Gang and County Lines strategies and assisted in the development of the Kent and Medway Gangs Strategy.


John has portfolio responsibility for Gangs and County Lines in Kent and Essex, and for support on the Serious Violence Strategy for Kent.



Guy Thompson, Chief Inspector – Partnerships & Communities, Kent Police


Chief Inspector Thompson joined Kent Police in 1993 and has been involved in Community Policing and Community Safety for most of his service at different ranks. He is a qualified crime reduction officer and has recently been the Community Safety Inspector for Dover District.


More recently, as Chief Inspector, Thompson was given the professional lead for Community Safety Units across Kent, and is the Force lead for Neighbourhood Policing, Hate Crime, Drugs Prevention and Licensing. He also has portfolio responsibility for Young People, Youth Justice, Community Cohesion, and is Chair of the Kent Community Safety Team working group.



Q - Please discuss the issues around crime recording and their impact on the increase in reported crime.


On 8th November 2018, Kent Police decommissioned the existing crime recording system ‘Genesis’ and transferred onto the new fully integrated IT system ‘Athena’ whereby officers and staff benefitted from having access to other forces intelligence data. The improved recording and methodology of extracting information also enhanced the Police’s ability to identify different markings of crime which had a significant impact on the perceived increase of crime levels. Mr Coull assured the Committee that crime levels had been consistent since the systems implementation in November and that a review of the system had been carried out to ensure that the figures were a correct reflection of the current crime levels. Mr Coull provided an example of the crime recording data prior to the implementation of Athena and said that there were 200,000 recorded incidents of shoplifting with only 4 of those involving an element on knife crime. Upon the implementation of the new intelligence system Kent Police acknowledged that there would be an administrative increase in knife crime, however, the statistics would now reflect an accurate picture of crime levels opposed to those  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.