Middle-class drug users told they are helping to fuel knife violence
Warning comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visits shrine to murder victim on the Peckwater Estate
12 April, 2018
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Peckwater Estate on Tuesday
JEREMY Corbyn has said that “smart, wealthy people” who take cocaine recreationally must face up to the fact they are helping to fuel a rise in knife violence.
The Labour Party leader came to Kentish Town on Tuesday to discuss ways to halt the rising numbers of stabbings in the wake of a shocking night of violence that left two young men dead and another in hospital.
Addressing a small crowd at St Luke’s Church, which included relatives of the two men stabbed to death on February 20, Mr Corbyn said: “Smart, wealthy people turning up buying cocaine on the streets are part of the problem. They don’t think they are. They don’t realise the impact they have on the streets. It’s our kids who are involved and our kids who are losing their lives because of it.”
Police and politicians have said that rising street violence across London is linked to the illegal drug market.
Asked if he felt the legalisation or decriminalisation of some drugs could play a part in ending the violence, Mr Corbyn said: “We support medicinal use of cannabis, which would change things a bit.” Alongside shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer and council leader Georgia Gould, he had earlier visited the Peckwater estate, where two of the latest victims had grown up.
Speaking in the playground of the NW5 Project, which threw open its doors to accommodate grieving friends and relatives on the night of the killings, Mr Corbyn said: “We have to address this as a very serious issue and that means stopping austerity cuts to police services as well as properly funding our youth services.”
The NW5 Project had been receiving up to £100,000 a year from Camden, but funding has slowly dwindled since 2013 and was cut altogether last year. Despite maintaining one of the best-resourced youth services in London, Camden Council has been forced to make cuts of £1.6million over the past three years after its budget from government was halved. Asked if a Labour government would reverse these cuts, Mr Corbyn told the New Journal: “Well absolutely. We would fund the youth service properly.”
Mr Corbyn visited a shrine to 19-year-old Lewis Blackman, who was stabbed to death in west London on February 18. Two days later, Abdikarim Hassan, 17, a former William Ellis pupil described by the school as “charming, cheerful and outgoing”, was stabbed to death just a few metres from his home on the estate.
Less than two hours later, Sadiq Aadam, 20, a university student, was killed in Malden Road. He said that youth violence “can’t go on”, adding: “There isn’t one simple solution. There’s a whole range of issues that have got to be addressed: School funding, youth funding, community centres, community funding, police and community support officers and, crucially, the criminal justice system, which is a major motor in rising crime because you’ve got very high re-offending rates.”
Home secretary Amber Rudd has denied there is a connection between falling police numbers and rising youth violence. Launching the government’s response on Monday, she said: “One of the contentions is that there are not enough officers on the streets. The evidence however does not support this. In the early 2000s, when serious violent crimes were at their highest, police numbers were rising. In 2008, when knife crime was far greater than the lows we saw in 2013 to 2014, police numbers were close to the highest we’d seen in decades.”
She instead said there was a “strong link between drugs and violent crime”, pledging extra resources to tackle “county line” drug dealing, whereby London gangs control supply to distant towns and cities.
She also pledged to make it harder to buy knives online. A £11million fund will “help communities run early intervention and prevention programmes for young people at risk of getting involved in violence”. She urged social media companies to do more to remove content posted by gangs that “document, encourage and glamourise violence”.