Agenda and draft minutes

Select Committee - Knife Crime in Kent - Wednesday, 12th June, 2019 10.00 am

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

Contact: Gaetano Romagnuolo  03000 416624 - Email:

Note No. Item





There were no apologies for absence.  Mr Paul Cooper would join the meeting on the rise of Planning Committee.

10:00 - 10:45


Dr Erin Sanders-McDonagh (Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Kent) pdf icon PDF 7 KB

Additional documents:


1.            The Chairman welcomed Dr Erin Sanders-McDonagh to the meeting.  Erin worked as a senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent having received her PhD at the University of Nottingham in 2010. 


2.            Erin’s most recent project was with the New Horizon Youth Centre in London, working with their Youth Offending Project Team on the best ways of tackling re-offending and improving the lives of young people who were gang affiliated. 


3.            Through her work with young people Erin had asked about their early lives to try to determine what would make a 14-year-old carry a knife.  The recurring themes were their early years, home circumstances and background which generally included violence or trauma.  Exclusion from school was also a big factor. 


4.            Homelessness also had a huge impact, young people often found themselves street homeless because their parents were unable to cope with their behaviour.  Homelessness could prompt the move into the drug trade because the young people need money and somewhere to stay.  The majority of young people involved in gangs sold drugs and were often exploited into selling drugs for somewhere to stay. 


5.            Erin was an advocate of third sector organisations, they often elicited positive change and were vital in helping young people to move out of County Lines into safer spaces and to enable them to make better decisions.


6.            Erin also highlighted mental health as a huge issue, many young people she had spoken to suffered from Reactive Attachment Disorder, some displayed psychopathic traits, many had PTSD and almost all had signs of anxiety and depression. 


7.            Erin explained that, in her experience, loneliness and social isolation also was a recurring theme, the young people did not have trusting relationships and ended up in gang related activity, in the future it then becomes very difficult to trust people and to make connections and to make positive changes young people have to be able to trust someone. 


8.            Erin discussed cycles of vulnerability with Members, this involved exploitation with older gang members influencing younger gang members and this being a cycle of the young people replicating what they experience themselves. 


9.            New Horizon was working to prevent young people from being gang involved, it was very difficult to get them out of the gang culture once they had entered it and it became increasingly difficult to rebuild new lives.  To prevent the cycle repeating it was essential to look at early years’ intervention (0-3years).  Sure Start was an excellent example of bridging the gap with young people and giving advice to parents.  Erin advised that it was important to ensure that Sure Start was well funded in addition to Social Workers.  She also considered that education was key, more support was needed in schools for young people where teachers saw the young people daily. 


10.         Erin gave an example of a gang project in London which worked very well, Islington XXXX they had a clinical psychologist which allowed the assessment of young people’s  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.

11:00 - 11:45


Mark Pearson (Chief Executive Officer, Excelsior Safeguarding) pdf icon PDF 110 KB

Additional documents:


1.            The Chairman welcomed Mark Pearson, Chief Executive Officer, Excelsior Safeguarding C.I.C to the meeting.  Excelsior Safeguarding was a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation established to provide effective help and support to vulnerable young people and adults affected by group violence, drugs and other forms of criminal exploitation.


2.            Mr Pearson delivered a presentation to the Select Committee which is available to view online via this link.


3.            Mr Pearson explained that it was not possible to separate the criminal exploitation issues such as exploitation by organised gangs to deal drugs, sexual exploitation and extremism which can co-exist and that knife crime was a key component. 


4.            Mr Pearson explained County Lines to Members, the pattern for Kent was the same as the rest of the country, and the key element was knife crime, often including initiation which could be to harm an innocent person to gain credibility within the gang. 


5.            Referring to Cuckooing, which was where a gang took over the address of a vulnerable family or vulnerable adult, this process often resulted in young people being exposed to traumatic situations. 


6.            Excelsior Safeguarding had received funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Kent County Council (KCC) Members and District Councils to deliver resilience building training and support for young people in schools.  This training had been and continued to be delivered in Swale, Thanet, Ashford, Maidstone and Folkestone & Hythe. 


7.            Mr Pearson has concerns about Drill music, that glorified violence and encouraged gangs to keep stab and kill tallies.  He considered that this impacted young people who were particularly vulnerable such as those with ADHD and ASD. 


8.            Members discussed the use of video games and the percentages of children in years 5-6 that were regularly playing violent video games in the evening. 


9.            A member asked Mr Pearson what he would say to academics who pointed to childhood trauma as an indicator rather than music and video games as motivational factors.  Mr Pearson agreed it was a multifaceted problem, he commented that young children playing violent video games could be considered to be tomorrows Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).  He agreed that drill music was only one element of the problem but if it encouraged young people to stab, maim and kill then in time that would have an impact.  Particularly on young children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) or Looked After Children (LAC) who were more vulnerable and potentially more controllable.   Members discussed the link between poverty, deprivation, knife crime and criminal exploitation.  Mr Pearson considered that this combination of factors, environmental factors, music, video games, and being in a deprived area resulted in a higher risk to gang exposure.  Having said that Mr Pearson commented that gangs had been successful in recruiting both grammar school and private school pupils. 


10.         A Member commented on primary schools and evidence that giving information to pupils outside of their comfortable safe environment might be more effective.   Mr Pearson explained that it was important to build resilience in children  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

12:00 - 12:45


James Whiddett (Operations Manager, Trading Standards, Kent County Council) and Oliver Jewell (Principal Trading Standards Officer, Kent County Council) pdf icon PDF 111 KB

Additional documents:


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


(2)  Mr Whiddett and Mr Jewell introduced themselves to the Committee and briefly outlined the roles and responsibilities of their posts within Trading Standards.


(3)  Please explain how Kent County Council’s Trading Standards service helps to prevent the sale of knives to persons under the age of 18 and discuss the importance of multi-agency working to help prevent the sale of knives to persons under the age of 18.


Mr Jewell said that his role specialised in Illicit Alcohol and Tobacco, Underage Sales, Petroleum and Explosives. He worked hard to support team members with the delivery of the prevention of the sale of knives to persons under the age of 18 years old. Much of this work involved liaising with partnership agencies and public services. He added that he was the Chairman of a Trading Standards focus group.

(4) How does legislation affect the work carried out by Trading Standards?


Mr Whiddett said that there was no requirement, under the current Criminal Justice Act 1988, for Trading Standards to carry out investigations relating to the sale of knives to persons under the age of 18. However, there was an agreement between Trading Standards and Kent police to conduct these investigations due to work that had been undertaken by Trading Standards historically on the issue. He said that the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 was underway and was expected to become live in October 2019. The legislation within the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 scrutinises the sale of knives online. He added that Kent Trading Standard’s focused on partnership working with national retailers, assessing and responding to issues appropriately and the prioritisation of young people’s health and safety.


Mr Jewell said that the Trading Standard’s focus group were in the process of responding to the Home Office consultation on the issue of knife crime and discussing ways in which Trading Standards could improve the process of the sale of knives within the retail sector, ensuring that individual’s under the age of 18 were not able to purchase knives in a shop or online. Mr Jewell talked about the Challenge 25 test purchase scheme that had been undertaken recently in three parts of the UK and the opportunity for Trading Standards to advise businesses and take necessary action in order to strengthen the policy. Mr Jewell talked briefly about the 14 intelligence report checks that had recently been carried out.


(4)  Is there a danger of people assuming that knife crime issues would be resolved solely by ensuring that all retailers only sold knives to persons over the age of 18?

Mr Whiddett said that although solving the issue within the retail sector would not put a stop to knife crime, Trading Standards were working hard to ensure that more data was collected in relation to the types of knives that were used during knife crime related incidents. Mr Jewell added that retailers needed to make it impossible for individuals under the age of 18  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.