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Knife edge

Amanda Farnsworth | 11:54 UK time, Wednesday, 31 May 2006

"A nation of knives" scream some tabloid newspapers this morning. So we talked a lot at our editorial meetings today about what we should do, and how to approach the spate of stabbings that have become so prominent recently.

1and6news.jpgTo some extent it's true these things go in cycles. I remember the last time knife crime really ran as a story over a number of weeks was when Luke Walmsley was killed, and then inevitably other stories and events moved the issue out of the headlines.

But how do we report without just adding to the hysteria? I think the key here is context. It is a fact knife crime is on the increase - that's why the government is bringing in new laws to tackle it. But who exactly is carrying a knife? Why do they do it? And what can we do apart from bringing in new laws to combat it? It's these questions we need to answer in our coverage and not simply give a list of incidents of knife crime and essentially tell the viewers to be afraid.


  • 1.
  • At 02:25 PM on 31 May 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

This whole knife crime 'issue' is hugely strange to me. when I were a lad, plenty of people brought knives to school. Mainly pen knives, but I remember switchblades as well. Not saying that was OK then, just that the presence of knives isn't a new thing.

Also, Amanda - are you considering the possibility that, rather than generating a climate of fear with this coverage, we might actually be putting the idea of carrying a knife into people's heads?

  • 2.
  • At 02:50 PM on 31 May 2006,
  • Brian wrote:

That's right! It shouldn't be mentioend. Bring on Pravda! "Everything was peaceful in the UK's schools today as industrious students worked hard on their key stage coursework projects."

  • 3.
  • At 05:45 PM on 31 May 2006,
  • Frogger wrote:

I question the assertion that knife crime is rising or even that we have a "spate of stabbings". We certainly have a spate of news stories about stabbings at the moment but if you look at the home office figures on A&R, there were no more "homicides with a sharp instrument" in 2004/05 (236) than there were in 1995 (243) and there were fewer than in 2003/04.

Reminds me of the dog attack stories in the early 1990s when it seemed no child could step outside its back door without being mauled by a Rottweiler.

Of course 236 fatal stabbings is a terrible figure and everything that can be done to reduce it, should be, but we as journalists shouldn't always assume something is getting more prevalent just because we are reporting it more.

Good to see some comments - can I take issue about the rate of knife crime tho...

It's true FATAL stabbings have been fairly constant BUT knife carrying incidents are on the increase - that's why the govt is wanting to bring in new laws. I reprint some script of Margaret Gilmore's reports from the past 2 days below:


Knife crime figures show in 1999 more than 4,500 people were charged with possessing either a knife or a sharp incident. By 2004 that had risen to 7,223. Up 60% in six years. Criminologists say knives are a bigger problem than guns.

(Criminologist, University of Kent)
Knife crime we believe is far more prevalent. You can tell this by looking at police search figures. The number of searches that turn up firearms is very small, compared to the number of police searches that turn up offensive weapons.

In response, Essex today became the second ambulance brigade after London to issue stab-proof vests to paramedics.

(Essex Ambulance Service)
Only the other weekend we had a crew that was confronted with a person wielding a knife. So we consulted with the staff. They felt it was important that they had this additional protection. We've supplied it to make sure that there is some form of protection there for them.

Searches at Luton last weekend, show how widespread the knife problem is. People arriving here for a family carnival, yet this is what police recovered. 57 knives, a third of all murders are now stabbings. Though that figure has been stable for years, the number of people arrested for carrying knives, has risen dramatically. With young people the biggest concern.

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