The Johnston Press Investigations Team revealed that knife crime is growing rapidly in mainland Britain schools – but that the problem is virtually non-existent in the Northern Ireland education sector reports News Letter
The total number of children found in possession of knives in schools in England and Wales is now over 2,000 since 2012 – with over 3,00 knife crimes. However, in Northern Ireland the figures are in stark contrast, with only around one conviction a year for possession of a knife on school premises.
Today, leading figures in Northern Ireland give their views on why schools should be so safe here by comparison.
Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, gives a range of reasons. “Closer knit communities here produce a culture where communities may be safer, but are also better equipped to support young people at risk of committing crime,” she told the News Letter.
Rosemary Craig, lecturer in law at Ulster University, has a special interest in knife crime. “I think there is a great vigilance by school heads about what weapons might be carried into schools,” she gave as one factor.
“Also there is not a knife culture in Northern Ireland as prevails in Great Britain. Therefore there is not an awareness [of knife crime].” Another factor could be the absence of ‘gang culture’ which exists in Great Britain, possibly due in part to paramilitaries here. “There is also a perception in Northern Ireland that one may encounter someone carrying a firearm, real or imitation, if one produces a knife,” she added.
A young man in his 20s from a strongly republican area of Belfast agreed. “There would always have been a subconscious fear of paramilitaries among young people,” he said. “You knew there were lines you would not cross and carrying a knife would be one of them.
“Paramilitaries controlled everything. They would tolerate minor anti-social behaviour, but only as long as it wasn’t too widespread.”
Read the full article Knife crime: why is it absent from Ulster schools?
Do you agree that greater fears, the lack of gang culture and less racial tension are helping to keep knife crime down in Northern Ireland? Or do you have your own ideas? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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