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Home Secretary to announce new public health duty to tackle serious violence


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Forces to 'work together' with bodies mirroring police trailblazers in Scotland and London.


Knife crime: The government intends to amend the Crime and Disorder Act to ensure serious violence is an explicit priority for community safety partnerships

A new legal duty on public bodies to help prevent and tackle serious violence which plans to take a leaf out of policing trailblazers in Glasgow and London will be announced by the Home Secretary.

As part of the public health duty, to be set out this week by Sajid Javid, services including police forces, local councils and NHS trusts will be required to work together.

This will cover the sharing of data, intelligence and knowledge to understand and address the root causes of serious violence, including knife crime, the Home Office said.

Mr Javid said: "Violent crime is a disease that is plaguing our communities and taking too many young lives.

"It's crucial that we all work together to understand what causes violent crime in the first place, so we can intervene early and prevent this senseless bloodshed.

"I'm confident that a public health approach and a new legal requirement that make public agencies work together will create real, lasting long-term change."

The government will also amend the Crime and Disorder Act to ensure serious violence is an explicit priority for community safety partnerships – including local police, fire and probation services – by ensuring there is a strategy in place to tackle it, the Home Office said.

Inspections and other existing mechanisms will be used to ensure organisations comply with the duty, with these held to account rather than individual teachers, nurses or other frontline professionals, the government department added.

According to official figures released last month, the number of criminals caught with knives or dangerous weapons has hit its highest level since 2010.

More than 22,000 offences of possessing or making threats with blades or offensive weapons resulted in a conviction or caution in England and Wales in 2018-19.

One in five of the culprits was aged between 10 and 17, the figures from the Ministry of Justice revealed.

On Thursday Mr Javid visited a community football group in north-west London which is part of a national programme run by the Premier League which tries to prevent knife crime.

Afterwards he said the increase in youth violence has a lot to do with "the changes in drug markets we are seeing world wide".

"In terms of how we tackle it, I wish there was one single answer, but I think there isn't. You need action on many fronts," he added.

This year, amid a slew of fatal stabbings, the government granted an extra £100 million for police in the areas worst affected by knife crime and serious violence and gave officers beefed-up stop and search powers.

Britain’s biggest regional force in the West Midlands said it was adopting a 'public health approach' adopted after landing more than £3 million in government funding.

Its new violence reduction unit will focus on diverting young people away from being lured into gangs and criminal activity, echoing a tried and tested method used in Scotland and introduced last year by Mayor Sadiq Khan in London.

The new body – championed by police and crime commissioner David Jamieson – aims to bring together police, social services, health and education professionals to ensure the rising tide of violence is tackled by all.

On Monday Prime Minister Theresa May will also hold her next ministerial taskforce, which will hear from youngsters on the government's Youth Advisory Forum about their experiences of serious violence.

Mrs May said: "We all have a role to play to tackle serious violence and stop the needless loss of young lives. Alongside tough law enforcement we also have to stop children being drawn into crime in the first place.

"Our new legal duty will ensure all agencies work together to share intelligence and identify warning signs, so we can intervene earlier and protect young people."

Reacting to the announcement, Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing director for England, said: "Getting public bodies like NHS Trusts, police forces and councils to work together to try to prevent violent crime sounds like a sensible approach.

"Our worry when the Home Secretary first announced these plans back in April was that they proposed a legal duty for individual nurses to try to identify patients at risk of becoming victims of knife crime – which we felt was placing too great a burden on nursing staff, who are already struggling with severe workforce shortages in trying to provide care.

"We are glad Mr Javid has listened to our concerns and amended his plans."

Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield said: "It is right that knife crime is seen as a public health issue", and that there "is a duty put on those whose job it is to keep children safe".

"While this is a step forward, it will not be enough on its own. There must be a commitment from the government and new prime minister to drive this through and put the right resources behind it," she added.

"It must not be allowed to wither away after any change at Number 10 or the Home Office.

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If I didn't know better I'd say this was probably yet another soundbite from our wonderful home secretary...

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Reduce police budgets. Reduce officer numbers. Restrict the powers which can be exercised..

Then, give some money back. Increase numbers. Increase powers aaaaaand profit from publicity over the amazing job your doing.

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