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Bradford opinion on what the new government should do
Last month, 19-year-old Raheem Nawaz pleaded guilty to seven attempted murders following his knife attack on seven people in Keighley last year.
This year, nine-year-old Jackson Taylor of Wibsey was stabbed to death, a Manningham teenager was stabbed seven times, and 19-year-old Mohammed Rayaib was attacked by four men and knifed to death in Bradford Moor.
Two years ago, Bradford community leaders called for concerted action against knife crime. One of them was Ishtiaq Ahmed, of Bradford’s Council for Mosques.
He is still worried, specifically about young people committing “horrendous crimes” against people and property. He said the incoming Government needs to empower parents and schools, the police and courts of law, to deter knife attacks and gang wars.
“Many Muslim parents, and I am a father of five children, feel their hands are tied in how far they can go in disciplining their children. They are afraid that the police and Social Services will be on their back,” he said.
“I talk to young people. Some of them think they can do anything and get away with it.
“I think parents would welcome some clarity about what their responsibilities are. If they are not allowed to be responsible for disciplining their children, then who is? Parents are confused. What does parental responsibility mean, what can they do and what can’t they do?
“Obviously, the lives of children are important, they should be helped. But the lives of parents are being compromised and diluted.
“What is needed is a little less political correctness and more clarity about the roles of parents, schools, the police and the courts; and more resources to help these four components work in cohesion in tackling crime among young people.
“The next Government has got to work with police, parents, schools and the courts to send a clear co-ordinated message to young people. If they are going to commit a crime, they are not going to be allowed to get away with it.”
Some would say that central government has already given the police and security services too many Big Brother powers of surveillance and intrusion. Others might argue that effective policing has been undermined by an obsession with meeting paper targets and box-ticking.
Former Bradford College lecturer and author Ramindar Singh was a magistrate for 15 years and deputy chairman of the old Race Relations Commission.
He said a new Government should speed up procedures in magistrates courts, tighten up on legal aid and clarify the presentation of crime statistics.
“The public wants to see crime being dealt with. I think courts have the powers but there is too much mitigation at the moment.
“Sometimes magistrates don’t feel comfortable in delivering sentences to the limit of their powers. And then lawyers are always trying to exaggerate mitigating circumstances for their clients – why they are unable to appear in court. They think it’s their duty to protect them.
“These adjournments are costly and need to be dealt with. The Government can look again at legal aid and give instructions that people on legal aid should not have adjournments.”
Culprits are more often talked about than victims of crime. One group anxiously awaiting the outcome of the election is Victim Support.
The national organisation has received £30m in each of the past three years to offer emotional and practical support to victims of crime, and to help witnesses in court.
Diane Pae is operations manager at Victim Support’s West Yorkshire area office in Shipley.
She said: “We have been going for about 30 years in West Yorkshire. We have approximately 50 staff and 150 volunteers. Last year we supported about 80,000 victims of crime and helped 12,000 court witnesses.
“Most of our referrals have come from the police. Now we are attempting to extend our service by ringing everybody who gets in touch with us.
“At a time of change we are a little nervous about what may happen next. We would want any incoming Government to continue to help us carry on with our good work in helping victims of crime.”