Ban sale of pointed domestic knives, say campaigners

27 September 2019

DIOCESE OF ROCHESTER

The Revd Nathan Ward surrounded by photos of victims of knife crime, in Rochester Cathedral

The Revd Nathan Ward surrounded by photos of victims of knife crime, in Rochester Cathedral

CAMPAIGNERS against knife crime have called on the Government to ban the sale of pointed domestic knives.

They say that the knives that are easily available on the high street are no longer necessary in kitchens, and that a round-tipped design would reduce their effect as a weapon.

The call, in an open letter published in last weekend’s Sunday Times, was formulated at a conference organised by the diocese of Rochester at the end of a month of actions in the Medway area to address the rise in knife crime.

The signatories, who include experts on gang culture, county lines, and violent crime, MPs, church and community leaders, wrote: “A five-year study in Edinburgh found that of the sharp instruments used in homicides, 94 per cent were kitchen knives. Research demonstrates kitchen knives are used in a large percentage of homicides due to their availability and lethal nature.

“Historically, we needed a point on the end of our knife to pick up food because forks weren’t invented. Now, we only need the point to open packets when we can’t be bothered to find the scissors.”

Home Office research showed that rounded knives had “significantly less penetrative capabilities than pointed knives. Round-ended knives can still cause slash-type wounds, but they are far less likely to be life-threatening.”

At the conference “The Point”, a researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, Katy Jackson, said that, until the invention of the fork in the 17th century, the pointed ended of a domestic knife was important for picking up and skewering food. Once the fork became more widely available, the pointed end became largely obsolete. She concluded that there was no reason, historically or socially, for using pointed knives on a daily basis today.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University and Professor of Materials and Forensic Engineering, Professor Sarah Hainsworth, said: “A kitchen-knife’s length and point make it lethal because of the range it has in the body and it’s penetrative capabilities. Because of this, a focus on the design of kitchen knives is an important element to be considered in a solution to knife crime”.

Government figures show that, in England and Wales in 2017-18, there were 268 homicides using a sharp instrument, including knives and broken bottles — a third of all homicides — compared with 216 in 2016-17.

London had the highest rate of knife crime in 2017-18: 168 offences per 100,000 population — an increase of 26 offences on 2016-17. Surrey had the lowest rate: five offences per 100,000 individuals (up by one from 2016-17). In the year ending March 2018, there were 21,044 convictions for possession of a knife or offensive weapon. A fifth of the cases involved children aged between ten and 17.

The month of action in Medway concluded on Saturday with a service at Rochester Cathedral, during which the Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Revd Simon Burton-Jones, said that there was never just one victim of knife crime: “Knife crime rips up the lives of families and friends, piercing the networks that give us life, meaning, and support,” he said.

“Knife crime can be reduced if we follow the evidence trail, devote our resources to the right places, share knowledge smartly, and value the organising power of local communities. The Church has a role to play; for it is located in most, if not all, places.”

An installation of the Knife Angel is on display in the gardens of Rochester Cathedral until Sunday. More than 5000 visitors there have signed a pledge not to carry knives.

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