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Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009
Knife offenders learn too late

In Jailed for a Knife, Panorama reporter Raphael Rowe was given rare access to five young offenders currently serving sentences for knife crime. Three had killed other young people with a knife and two had committed grievous bodily harm (GBH). Here, Raphael talks about what he learned.

Raphael Rowe
Raphael Rowe was given rare access to young knife attackers

The offenders I spoke to for Jailed for a Knife are serving a long time for knife offences, including murder. But none of them had believed they would use the knife they carried and they all claimed they had carried it for protection.

"Basically if I'd been attacked by people and they come at me with a knife as well if I've got a knife and just say alright, they're obviously gonna think twice about attacking me," one of the young men told me.

"If I didn't have a knife they'd think 'oh there's three of us, one of him, we can take him'. If they think 'oh there's three of us and he's got a knife', they're gonna think about it more; they're not gonna wanna get themselves hurt, even though I probably wouldn't even have used it on them," he added.


When asked why he carried a knife if he didn't intend to use it, the offender said:

"For protection, obviously I'd get it out if I was attacked and say 'alright come on then', that kind of thing, but I wouldn't wanna use it on someone intentionally, like intentionally go up to someone and use it."

Young offender from Panorama's Jailed for a Knife looking out of window
Panorama spoke to convicted knife attackers in their cells

The young man he stabbed and killed did not have a knife.

In fact none of the knife offenders I interviewed were being threatened with a knife or any other weapon at the time they killed or wounded their victim.

The offenders found it difficult to accept that the knife they carried was an offensive weapon rather than defensive.

This belief that brandishing a knife would deter attack is just one of the contradictions the young offenders expressed.

Listen and learn

Whilst they knew it was illegal to carry a knife, they told me they did not take the threat of the law seriously.

Some said they were more concerned about the threat from other teenagers than the police.

Knives seized by police
Thirty four teenagers died in knife crime incidents last year

It's not often that the prison service allows a journalist into a young offenders' institution to film interviews with teenagers that have committed such violent offences, but such is the concern about the numbers of teenagers carrying and using knives that every effort is being made to break the cycle of one teenager picking up a knife to defend himself from others carrying them.

In the cases of those interviewed for the programme it is too late to change things, but when asked what is the one thing that may have stopped them picking up a knife, they all said hearing firsthand experiences from someone who had been to prison for knife crime.

Although what Panorama did in going to speak to these young men may seem controversial to some - 90% of the 16-24 year-olds questioned for our poll on tackling knife crime said that hearing from young men like the ones I spoke to is useful in the fight against knife crime.

Jailed for a Knife on BBC One, Monday 12 January 2009 at 8.30pm.

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