British Crime Survey and other surveys The BCS measures the amount of crime in England and Wales
(the first survey covered Scotland as well,
but now Scotland and Northern Ireland carry out their own crime surveys)
by asking people about crimes they have experienced in the last year.
The BCS includes crimes which are not reported to the police,
so it is an
important alternative to police records.
Children killing each other
over 'trivial' slights and girls increasingly
Saturday 20 December 2008
This article was first published
on guardian.co.uk at 00.01 GMT
on Saturday 20
It appeared in the Guardian
on Saturday 20 December 2008
on p1 of the Top
It was last updated at 00.05 GMT
on Saturday 20 December 2008.
The country's leading police officer on gang culture warns today that gang
members are getting younger and that they are resorting to lethal violence much
more swiftly for the most trivial slights.
In an interview with the Guardian, Commander Sue Akers of the Metropolitan
police identified other trends, including the emergence of a small number of
girl gangs, and how women are being used to carry and conceal weapons.
Speaking at the end of a week in which Sean Mercer, 18, was convicted of
murdering 11-year-old Rhys Jones, Akers said the only way to counter the threat
of further violence was long-term investment that offers gang members a real
alternative to crime. Mercer was 16 at the time of the killing.
"You can carry on with a stick, but you need a carrot at the end of the day,"
said Akers. "Some of the gang members go to prison and, when they come out, they
get back into the gangs, because life doesn't seem to offer them much else."
The rise in teenage gang crime is turning into a priority issue for ministers.
There have been 66 teenage murders in Britain this year, mainly knife attacks.
London has had 30 murders; there were six in Scotland, five in Greater
Manchester and four in Merseyside. The British Crime Survey is to start
documenting the number of teenage murders separately. The government has also
launched a new programme to tackle gang crime.
Akers, the spokesperson on gangs for the Association of Chief Police Officers
and one of the Met's most experienced officers in the field, told the Guardian:
"We're seeing young kids killing other young kids. We've seen 14- and
15-year-olds being killed over what seems the most trivial slights or just a
glance. In the past, they would use violence over something like enforcing debts
but now it's over this 'respect' issue, the smallest insult."
Gangs no longer split down racial lines but were formed as a result of
territory, neighbourhood or shared interest. "There is less focus on ethnicity
now," she said.
Akers said people must distinguish between youths who hang around together on
street corners and may commit minor antisocial offences and the real gangs
involved in violence and criminality. A growing number of senior officers
advocate offering alternatives to gang life. She pointed to work being done in
Glasgow, similar to the Boston Ceasefire project in the US. Police tactics can
have an immediate effect, she said, citing the apparent success of
stop-and-search in London. "But - and it is a big but - if there are no
alternatives for gang members, then they just go back to it. It takes time and
investment. We need to get really, really focused on the very young."
British gangs differ from US gangs in structure and hierarchy, she said. "Ours
are more fluid and more fickle. Gangs disappear and fragment, they can be allies
one week and not another." A small number of girl gangs had emerged in London,
"and some gangs use women to look after their weapons". The vast majority
remained young men and boys.
· Major expansion for plan to tackle bad neighbours
· Units will provide round the clock supervision
Thursday April 12, 2007
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
More than 1,500 families a year, dubbed neighbours from hell, are to be placed
in "intensive care sin bins" under a big expansion announced yesterday of the
government's family intervention programme.
The £15m scheme is designed to tackle the most badly behaved families in
England by moving them into dedicated residential units with round the clock
supervision by social care workers, providing support, parenting advice and
There is no legal compulsion on the problem families to live in the specialist
units but those that do can avoid permanent eviction from council housing,
prosecution for antisocial behaviour, or their children being taken into care.
Many disruptive families in the programme also face curfews and bans on
late-night visitors, and will get drug and alcohol treatment as well as money
and parenting advice as part of the attempt to tackle the specific causes in
The family intervention programme is modelled on the Dundee Family Project,
started 10 years ago by the local council's social work and housing departments
and NCH Action for Children Scotland.
There are currently 572 problem families, targeted by 38 projects. The extra
£15m will fund a two-year expansion, with a further 1,000 project workers
trained to deliver parenting programmes and intensive support.
Louise Casey, the "respect tsar" responsible for coordinating the antisocial
behaviour programme, said yesterday that the number of family intervention
projects working with the most difficult families was being expanded to 53,
dealing with 1,500 problem families a year: "This minority of feckless and
disruptive families can cause untold misery to those who have to live alongside
them and destroy entire neighbourhoods with their frightening and disruptive
"These projects, a flagship part of the respect programme, grip families and use
enforcement action and intensive help, and are proven to turn families around.
These are families that in the past may have been written off by agencies as
lost causes - but now they will be offered the right help and incentives to
become decent members of their community and give their children the opportunity
to grow up with a chance in life."
Research published yesterday by Sheffield Hallam University, focusing on 256
problem families who had been referred to the projects after being threatened
with eviction or homelessness, showed that in 85% of cases their behaviour had
The main types of antisocial behaviour involved were youth nuisance [70%],
general neighbour conflicts [54%] and property damage [43%]. More than 60% of
the families had three or more children.
Poor mental health and/or drug and alcohol misuse affected 80% of adults
involved and more than half involved cases of intimate partner violence or
intergenerational violence within the family. The research showed that nearly
40% were at high or medium risk of having their children taken into care.
The projects typically involve three levels of intervention: "sin bins", managed
council housing blocks of several problem families with 24-hour on-site
supervision; a middle tier where families are managed but dispersed in the
community; and the lowest tier, providing support in their own homes to
antisocial families threatened with eviction.
At a glance: Family intervention
The projects are officially described as "difficult schemes to run and hard
to get right but can pay enormous dividends". They are designed to turn around
the behaviour of families and reduce their impact on their community.
The role of the key worker is to "grip" the family's problems using support and
sanctions to motivate them.
A contract is drawn up between the family and key worker which sets out the
changes expected, the support that will be provided, and the consequences if
changes are not made.
Sanctions are important and include the threat of demoting a tenancy or gaining
a suspended possession order linked to compliance with the project. For some,
the prospect of children being taken into care breaks the feeling that they are
Practical projects such as teaching parents how to get children up and fed,
clearing up, preparing meals and bedtime routines are used to provide structure
to chaotic lives.
Costs: average costs range from £8,000 per family to provide support in their
own home or a managed property to £15,000 for intensive support in a residential
unit. Supporters claim these cost must be set against the costs of damage to
society of a "neighbours from hell" family of £250,000 a year.
Thomas Harrison stunned the nation
when he murdered 16 children and a
in a shooting spree in Dunblane, Scotland
SILENCE was the first thing you noticed in Dunblane yesterday morning. It was
as if the tiny cathedral city had been struck dumb by disaster. The streets were
deserted, shops shut, cars locked and empty. Only the urgent siren of a police
car or an ambulance heading towards the school sent out alert signals.
It was as you approached the primary school, across the Allan Water, that you
first saw the parents, gathered outside the entrance. They were waiting
patiently in a straggling queue, with that strained, almost vacant look that
goes with shock.
There was little sign of emotion. The Scots do not tend to grieve in public.
Just the occasional hug, red eyes, or a hand raised to cover a trembling lip
indicated the depth of feeling. A woman whose son was a student teacher did not
know whether he had been teaching Primary 1 or not. “He’s been transferred from
class to class,” she said. “I don’t know where he ended up, and they won’t say
who the teacher was that died.” Another, who did not know which class had been
attacked, seemed not to understand when she was told that it was the younger
children. “But they couldn’t do that,” she said. “They just couldn’t.”
Those who were allowed in betrayed something of the horror they had seen. A
party of Scottish Office civil servants seemed almost unable to speak, and even
the police spokesman had to control the tremor in his voice as he gave out the
sparse details of what he had witnessed. When, later in the afternoon, the
Secretary of State Michael Forsyth, and the Shadow Secretary, George Robertson,
took their places to address an improvised press conference, they seemed to be
in shock. Both had been shown the blood-stained gymnasium, the scene of the
The build-up of tension which exploded on Saturday evening in the heart of
Brixton began on Friday afternoon, when a police car patrol spotted a young
black wandering along Railton Road with a stab wound in his back.
An ambulance was called and police were bandaging the youth in the car when
young blacks attacked it. The injured youth was taken to hospital. A second
police car arrived as a crowd of black youths was building up. Bottles were
thrown through the police vehicles' windscreens. This incident ended, but the
build-up of police patrols in the area continued into Saturday.
One white woman who lives in Spenser Road said that at 6pm Dulwich Road was
"filled with police and sirens and vehicles. There were so many I thought they
were on some sort of exercise."
Mrs May Dan, a black woman who lives in Railton Road [said], "At 9am on Saturday
morning, I thought there must be some trouble because the police were in twos
all the way down Railton Road, Atlantic Road and Coldharbour Lane."
At 4.45 a young black was arrested outside a minicab office after a scuffle with
a plain clothes police officer. The man was taken off in a van and missiles
thrown broke some of its windows. Police reinforcements were called and the
battle of Brixton had begun.
5pm: An abandoned police car is on fire, jewellery and clothing stores are
broken into and several police officers are hurt by flying bricks.
5.30: Fighting continues in Atlantic Road and spreads. Police get riot shields
and form cordons.
6.30: The first petrol bombs are thrown, setting fire to police and private
6.40: Fire brigade unable to get through because their vehicles are stoned. By
the end of the night, eight fire engines had been damaged. Thirteen firemen are
injured by missiles.
7.40: Youths commandeered a fire engine which they drove.
7.45: A petrol bomb sets fire to the Windsor Castle pub which is destroyed. The
George public house is petrol-bombed.
Throughout the night, 14 properties were destroyed or damaged by fire, gas mains
were damaged and 22 vehicles were set alight.
Mr Declan Butler, fire brigade Divisional Officer, said, "We've never had this
sort of disturbance before."
The director of the Abeng Centre, a West Indian venue, said, "It's been coming a
long time, and no one has been paying attention."
Edward, a black youth, said, "We were fighting back."
[Harry Roberts, now 71, who is serving a life sentence for his
part in these murders, was in June this year granted leave to seek a high court
judicial review against refusal of parole.]
Three plain-clothes police officers were shot dead yesterday
after they had stopped a car near Wormwood Scrubs, West London.
As two of the officers stepped out of their blue Triumph 2000 car, they were
shot down by men who had got out of another car. At least three shots rang out
killing the two officers. The third was shot dead through the windscreen of the
As it accelerated, the gang's car — described as a blue-grey Vanguard — ran over
one policeman. After the shooting, one of the police officers lay sprawled under
the rear wheels of the police car and the driver lay slumped against the
steering-wheel, behind the shattered windscreen. The body of the third police
officer was lying 20 yards away from the car.
Late last night every available policeman in London joined the hunt for the
killers — many reported from days off or returned from holiday. It was stated
that "one or two" officers may be armed with revolvers during the investigation.
Tear gas and arms have been made ready.
The Siege of Sidney Street in 1910 was the only previous occasion in Britain
when three policemen were shot dead in one incident.
Ten school-children, who said they saw the shooting, were taken to Scotland Yard
by Detective Chief Superintendent Thomas Butler, head of the Flying Squad, and
spent an hour looking at pictures in the "rogues gallery".
The shooting took place in a quiet street, beside fields scattered with playing
children: and late at night police had not discovered why the "Q" car had
stopped to question the men. One version is that the police car, making a
routine check, stopped alongside the gang's car.
Detective Constable Wombwell went across to question the driver but was shot and
left dying by the police car, Detective Sergeant Head rushed out of the car and
was shot in the back as he went for help. One of the gang then coldbloodedly
smashed the Triumph's windscreen and shot Constable Fox, the driver, as he
attempted to block the bandits' getaway.
A major question facing Scotland Yard was why such a determined attempt was made
to kill the officers. Did the men feel they had been recognised as criminals
already wanted for a serious crime, one which might carry a long sentence ? Or
were they just young thugs who panicked? The latter seems unlikely.
Battles between adolescents,
whose only point of difference appeared to be their dress, scared hundreds of
holiday-makers at Brighton today while gaining the keen attention of hundreds
more. Watching crowds obstructed police efforts to restore order.
Fifty-nine teenagers were arrested for throwing stones, for carrying offensive
weapons (including a starting pistol, a leather belt with brass buckle, a
cricket bat, a golf club, chains and stones), for obstructing the police, for
damaging deck chairs, for using threatening behaviour and for using obscene
language. A stone was thrown through the window of a police van, slightly
injuring a policeman inside; five girls were taken to hospital after a skirmish.
The magistrates' court sat throughout the day, hearing 35 cases and passing
maximum sentences of three months' imprisonment on defendants [aged] from 16 to
21. Several were fined £5 for obstructing the police.
The Mods and Rockers had their main pitched battle in the morning. After
sleeping on the beach, the teenagers were being forced eastwards by the police
when some hundreds broke away and reached the Aquarium Sun Terrace. Here a fight
took place with deck chairs as weapons, until some 20 Rockers jumped clear. They
continued to be the targets for litter, and some …litter baskets were thrown
from above before the police took control.
In a crowd as dense as that at Brighton control could not be easily maintained,
and fights and rowdiness continued sporadically. [But] most of [the teenagers]
shared the desire to keep away from physical violence. The only boy who said he
regretted that he had not yet been involved in a fight was speaking in front of
several girls. The battles … came far short of total war.
The statement, widely believed, that any youth in a leather jacket would be in
danger on the Brighton front was nonsense. Many wearing the Rocker outfit went
unmolested. But any group of Rockers became a challenge which the Mods could not
resist — particularly if there was a crowd nearby to watch.
By evening a corner of the beach, overlooked by the promenade and by the Palace
Pier, had become a kind of jousting field. After several fights, the police
surrounded the area and moved in force into the crowd on the beach. They thus
stopped the fighting but did not remove the tension, nor the feeling that here,
as in medieval tournaments, some young people liked to fight publicly for a
formal cause, and older people liked to watch them.
The number of teenagers was estimated at between 2,000 and 3,000.
A senior police spokesman said
last night that the total haul in yesterday's mail train robbery was "clearly
well over £1 million" .
The post office train was
ambushed in Buckinghamshire by a gang of between eight and 15 men. In executing
the biggest and most daring robbery in the history of rail, they altered signals
and split the train in two. The Postmaster General, Mr Reginald Bevins, said: "I
feel as uncomfortable as anyone in my position would".
Asked if any compensation would be offered for losses, Mr Bevins said people
would be compensated only to a limited extent, because £20 was the maximum
compensation paid for the loss of a registered package.
The hunt for the men who ambushed the Glasgow-London mail train at 3 a.m. near
Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, intensified last night. The National Provincial
Bank announced that its loss in the raid was "in excess of £500,000 - almost all
in notes." The British Linen Bank in Scotland put its loss at about £55,000.
A loss adjustors' spokesman said the company was offering a reward of £25,000 on
the instructions of the two banks. This brings the total reward money being
offered to £35,000.
The raid itself was efficient, violent, and over in 15 minutes. Police believe
the gang was armed with sticks and iron bars, and dressed in boiler suits with
[masks] ranging from nylon stockings to balaclava helmets.
Detective Superintendent Malcolm Fewtrell, of Buckinghamshire CID, said: "They
seemed to know their railway signalling."
The gang fixed a signal to stop the train. The men attacked and handcuffed the
crew of the engine, forcing them to drive the front two coaches to a bridge
where a lorry was waiting.
Other members of the gang had uncoupled the rear 10 coaches in which some 75
postal sorters were hard at work. A PO spokesman said later that there was no
reason why they should have known as they work against the clock and there are
occasional unscheduled stops.
The registered mail and five PO workers were in the second coach. Members of the
gang herded the staff into a corner while they tossed the mailbags through
The locomotive driver, Mr Jack Mills, of Crewe, was detained in hospital with
concussion after being hit over the head. He had been handcuffed to his
co-driver, Mr David Whitby, also of Crewe.
Mr Whitby said that one of the attackers had grabbed him, put a hand over his
mouth, and said: "If you shout, I will kill you."
The terrible crime perpetrated in county Donegal on Tuesday stands almost alone
in the ghastly horrors of its details. It has happened often enough that Irish
landowners and land stewards have been struck down by an unseen hand; the
peculiarity of the Milford tragedy, supposing the facts to be correctly
reported, is that it was no case of shooting from behind a hedge, but — at one
of its stages at least — an open encounter, in which the assassins closed with
their victims and deliberately put them to death. That there was a struggle the
appearance of the ground seems to establish. Besides, Lord Leitrim's head has
been shockingly battered, both his arms are broken, and the shattered stock of a
gun was found close to his body. We are also told that one of his two attendants
"was shot through the mouth".
So far as Lord Leitrim is concerned there can be little doubt as to the motive
of the crime; nor can there be much difficulty in suggesting a reason why it
should have been considered prudent to include the men who accompanied him in
the butchery. Lord Leitrim was assassinated because he was considered an
exacting landlord; his clerk and the car driver were murdered with him in all
probability because it was thought that, if allowed to escape, they might be
able to put the police on the track of the assassins.
It is unfortunately impossible to deny that Lord Leitrim was accustomed to think
far more of his own rights than of what was due to his tenants. He was in a
state of constant warfare with the people on his extensive property and he drew
upon himself increased odium from the personal part he took in the work of
eviction. We are told, for example, that he "usually appeared as his own counsel
and witness in ejectment cases" — a practice which could hardly fail to
intensify the popular resentment against him. Whatever may be said of him, he
was certainly unfortunate in his relations to tenantry; but it is only in
Ireland that this circumstance would be pleaded as an extenuation of the
dreadful crime which has been committed.
It is melancholy to read, as we do in a Press Association telegram from Dublin,
that "little sympathy is expressed among the middle classes in reference to the
murder of Lord Leitrim". What is meant to be conveyed here is, we presume, that
little horror or pity has been excited by this tragic event among the great mass
of Irish people. This, however, is hardly credible. Lord Leitrim has his faults
— serious faults, no doubt; — but, however it may be as regards the peasantry,
the "mid dle classes" of Ireland have ceased, we hope, to look with an
indulgent eye on "the wild justice of revenge". They at least must know that the
Irish tenant is now amply protected by the law. When he is evicted he can claim
compensation under the Land Act, and it is stated of the latest victim to the
agrarian spirit that in some instances he has paid in this way sums exceeding
the fee simple in value.
It seems to be an axiom, with
"the force" everywhere in England that every person found in the streets in a
semi-conscious or wholly insensible condition is "drunk and incapable" in the
We have no wish to be hard upon the constable. Speaking generally, he is not,
and cannot be expected to be, a man of discriminating mind, and he usually has a
good deal of work on hand - work of a kind which, without any fault of character
in himself, must tend to develop the cynical faculty.
It is his daily and nightly business to lift the helpless drunkard from the
pavement and remove him to a place of safety, where he may sleep off his
debauch, and whence he may be conveniently carried before the representative of
outraged public decency.
Even a policeman, however, ought to know, or, if he does not know, ought to be
taught, that men and women may fall powerless to the ground from other causes
than excessive drinking.
Every large town in England has on its records one or more cases in which a
perfectly sober person struck down by sudden illness has been carried away to
the police station, there entered as drunk, and left in a cell to die without
the medical assistance which might have explained and even saved all.
This is a subject on which every family must feel deeply; for it is a notorious
and melancholy fact that these sudden collapses, owing to the increasing wear
and tear of life, are every year coming less and less rare. These remarks are
suggested by the sad fate of a constable whose death has excited much attention
The man bore a high character for sobriety and steadiness. The other night he
was found prostrate in the street, and his comrades, assuming in their usual
fashion that he was drunk, removed him to the bridewell, where he was left for
hours, as it was thought, to right himself.
It was at length suspected that this was no ordinary case and the poor fellow
was taken to one of the infirmaries, where he soon afterwards died. The medical
and other evidence at the inquest seems to prove with the greatest clearness
that he had not been drinking, and that his death was due to injury to the brain
"by a fall or otherwise".
It is doubtful whether the man's life could have been saved if he had properly
attended to in the first instance; but the lesson is the same, and may be
commended to the attention of every Watch Committee in the kingdom.
Margaret Waters bought more
than 40 unwanted babies
by placing press advertisements.
She planned to sell
them to childless couples but, unable to care for them,
she abandoned them at
workhouses or on the streets.
She was found guilty of murder and executed
THE “Baby Farming” case at the
Lambeth Police Court is a shocking revelation of another of our social sores.
This year will be notorious for the horrors committed but we have heard of
nothing so revolting as the story now disclosed. Within the last few weeks
several bodies of infants were found in the south of London.
We leave the evidence to speak for itself so far as regards the specific
accusation against the prisoners; it would be idle to evade the conclusion that
an infamous system has been disclosed of making away with infants whose
existence is a shame and a burden to those who have brought them into the world.
The systematic adoption of children at 5/.
a head can only be a transparent
pretence for putting them out of the way as cheaply and secretly as possible.
The miserable creatures who are charged with this inhuman trade are not the only
persons who deserve the reprobation it will evoke. It must also be visited on
the parents, who, to relieve their own selfish instincts, deliberately paid for
the disappearance of their infants, and on those who by inserting such
advertisements abet this traffic in infanticide. No such traffic could be
systematically conducted without the aid furnished by newspapers which admit
objectionable advertisements into their columns.
A number of men were accused
of stealing items, including 300 silk handkerchiefs, on trains travelling
between London and Carlisle
THE Preston bench was occupied
during a considerable portion of Wednesday in investigating the extensive
railway robberies, notices of which have appeared in recent numbers of The
There were six accused persons in custody, viz: John Butler, Joseph Birrell sen,
Joseph Birrell jun, William Birrell, Edward Caton and John Parkinson.
Caton, late a brakeman in the employ of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway
Company, is the man who absconded on hearing that the police had searched his
house and seized a quantity of goods; he then returned and was found concealed
under the stairs.
Parkinson (brother-in-law to the prisoner Butler) was a warehouseman in the
employ of a Preston grocer, and when he was apprehended, had in his possession a
quantity of jewellery, including a valuable diamond pin, answering the
description of one stolen from Dr Jardine, who, having seen an account of the
robberies in The Times, wrote to the railway authorities respecting his loss.
The gentleman’s portmanteau had been forced open between London and Carlisle and
the diamond pin abstracted.
John Butler, Joseph Birrell sen and William Birrell were charged with stealing
300 silk handkerchiefs. No fewer than 70 were found in the possession of Joseph
Birrell sen. Almost a cartload of valuable property, taken from the prisoners,
was produced in court. The cases excited great interest, the justice-room being
crowded throughout the inquiry.