Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008
Mapping UK's teen murder toll

By Christine Jeavans

More than 70 teenagers were violently killed in the UK in 2008, BBC research has found.

The BBC News website has gathered information from police forces around the UK on every reported case of murder and manslaughter (homicide) in the 10-19 age group.

Figures include deaths resulting from apparent domestic incidents and straightforward assaults as well as gang-related violence.

Images of all 72 teenagers who were violently killed in 2008

In a year in which gangs and knife crime have featured regularly in headlines, collating and mapping the full information revealed that most police forces had not seen a case of teenage homicide.

The deaths were concentrated in a handful of locations with London suffering the highest number of young victims.

Other forces which reported multiple killings include Greater Manchester with five deaths; West Yorkshire, Merseyside and Strathclyde with four each and the West Midlands and South Yorkshire with three.

Map of teen murders

Official homicide statistics do not usually show 10-19 year-olds as a separate age group.

Instead they are split into 5-15 year-olds and 16-29 year-olds and the data is expressed as a rate per 1,000 of the population.

But Home Office figures supplied to BBC News indicate that the number of teen killings in England and Wales has remained largely stable in recent years.

However, the capital saw a significant rise in 2007 when 26 youngsters were killed, up from a stable average of 17 a year since 2000.

This year, the figure stands at 29, most of whom were stabbed.

Professor Karim Brohi, trauma surgeon at the Royal London Hospital said this was consistent with what he was seeing on the wards where a third of his inpatients were knife or gun victims.

Professor Brohi says a high proportion of his caseload is knife and gun victims

"It is very high [in] most of England and Wales less than one per cent of trauma patients are victims of knife crime.

"The real area in which we are seeing an increase is in the under 20s, we've seen a much greater incidence than we ever used to," he said.

In contrast, there have been no recorded teen killings in Wales or Northern Ireland this year, nor in cities such as Nottingham and Edinburgh and most rural areas.

The total number of 10-19 year-olds violently killed in the UK since 1 January was 72, the youngest of whom was an 11-year-old boy whose mother has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

The rest of the victims were aged 14 and over, with 17 the most prevalent age. Twelve were girls or young women.

Knife crime

Forty-three - 61% - of the victims were stabbed, far higher than the 35% of murders which official statistics show are carried out this way across all age groups.

Last week, the Home Office said that its Tackling Knives Action Plan which targets 10 "hotspots" for knife crime in England and Wales had yielded results within six months (although the government was criticised for rushing out the data).

But Dr Bob Golding, lecturer in Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth said the real acid test was long term success which would require "sustained and committed resources".

Knife crime is simply a symptom; you have associated with this... a development of a gang culture
Dr Bob Golding
"We have known for some time what the risk factors are in the use of serious violence. They are long term, almost generational... poverty is the major risk factor.

"Looking at long term trends [in teen homicide] there is a worrying increase," he said.

"This isn't just knife crime, knife crime is simply a symptom. You have associated with this the whole issue of a development of a gang culture, there is a context with knives, guns and gangs."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The loss of any young life is a tragedy and we are particularly concerned about the young age of offenders and victims of knife crime.

"The government is committed to tackling youth crime through early intervention, non-negotiable support and tough enforcement.

"The tough, targeted action we are taking in ten areas across the UK through the Tackling Knives Action Plan is making a real difference on the ground."

Accidents kill more

Homicide is far from the leading cause of death among teenagers, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Of the 1,574 youngsters aged 10-19 who died in England and Wales in 2007, half were killed by illness and 546 by accidents, of which the vast majority were road deaths. A further 84 committed suicide.

The Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Tom Mullarkey, said: "People often forget that accidents are untimely violent events which kill far more people than knife crime.

"The devastation for the victim's family is no less severe and neither is the lasting sense of regret and loss."

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