Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Sunday, 13 July 2008 15:33 UK

Knife crime plans 'might just work'

By Mark Simpson
BBC North of England correspondent

Children looking at floral tributes laid at scene of Bolton stabbing
Police described the Bolton stabbings as isolated incidents

Hospital visits to try to stop young people carrying knives may seem like a government gimmick, but the scheme might just work.

That was the view on the streets of Bolton, a town reeling from three stabbings in three days.

The Labour Party's poll ratings may be at a low ebb, but the latest proposed measures to tackle knife crime proved popular in a random survey of opinion on the streets of the Lancashire town.

Desperate times call for desperate measures was a common view.


Mandy Evans, who saw the ambulance called to the latest stab victim on Saturday night, supports the home secretary's idea of taking people caught with knives to hospital to see those suffering with stab wounds.

She said: "If people can understand the consequences of what they're doing, you've got more chance of succeeding in getting knife crime off the streets.

"You're not going to do it by sending them to youth offenders' institutions, or prison or anything like that, because they're just mixing with people more violent than themselves."

If they saw people that had suffered, it would do them good
Sylvia Harnetty

Her friend Michelle McDermott agreed, but said something else was needed to counteract knife crime - more police on the beat.

Other ideas mentioned by people on the streets of Bolton were:

  • Compulsory one-year national service for 18-year-olds
  • Longer prison sentences
  • More metal detectors outside pubs and clubs
  • The weekend spate of stabbings in Bolton is further evidence that knife-crime is a national problem, not just in London.

    Pensioners Denis and Sylvia Harnetty both said they thought life in the UK was getting more dangerous.

    So would taking young people round hospital wards really make any difference?

    "It's worth a try," said Denis.

    "It could be a good idea. I'm not saying it will be, but it could be."

    Police tape at scene of stabbing in Bolton
    Drugs bring knives, and knives bring drugs, it's as simple as that
    Bolton teenager

    Sylvia added: "If they saw people that had suffered, it would do them good."

    One young Asian shop-assistant agreed but said improved policing was also needed.

    "What we want here is better policing in Bolton - and to stop drugs coming in."

    Among young people in the town, there is a feeling that if you solve the drug problem, it may help solve the violent crime problem too.

    "Drugs bring knives, and knives bring drugs, it's as simple as that," claimed one teenager.

    Sensitivity needed

    However, there is nothing simple about getting rid of knife crime. Successive governments have tried and failed, and not just in Britain.

    Forcing an offender to walk round a hospital ward may not do any good, but it may not do any harm either.

    Mind you, the last thing a stab victim may want to do is stare into the eyes of someone who was convicted of wielding a knife.

    It is a difficult issue but if handled sensitively it could have public support.

    If the Home Office is looking for somewhere to try out an experimental scheme, it may find a welcome in Bolton.

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