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TEACHERS SHOULD SEARCH PUPILS FOR KNIVES - MINISTER

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Following the knives amnesty that brought the surrender of 90,000 weapons, the government is looking to community g...
Following the knives amnesty that brought the surrender of 90,000 weapons, the government is looking to community groups and schools to take action as part of an 'overarching strategy' against knife crime, Home Office minister Vernon Coker said this morning.

But BBC Radio Four's Today programme reported that teachers were unhappy at being given responsibility for searching pupils for knives.

Mr Coker told the programme: 'I think people are pleased about the fact that schools now have the opportunity to search for knives where there's a need to do that.'

He said teachers would be given guidance: 'There will be strict guidelines, working with the local community and working with local police.'

A total of 89,864 knives were handed over during the amnesty, Mr Coaker said.

During a five week period from 24 May until 30 June people were encouraged to dispose of their knives in secure bins at police stations throughout England and Wales. Those who handed over the lethal weapons avoided prosecution for possession.

The Home Office has made available£500,000 to police forces in England and Wales to pursue enforcement such as high visibility police patrols in knife crime hotspots and education such as weapons awareness programmes in schools.

Mr Coaker said: 'I am delighted that so many knives have been taken out of circulation. I believe that fewer knives on our streets make us all more secure. I want to send out a very strong message that carrying a knife without a legitimate reason is both dangerous and illegal. Those who carry knives must understand the weapons can be turned on them and that knives don't make anyone safer.

'Working with the police, we will continue to spread the message that carrying knives without a good reason is against the law. I believe ongoing programmes of education and enforcement can go a long way to tackle this danger, whether it is through education packs for teachers or working with retailers to encourage them not to sell knives to children aged under 16.'

Tony Melville, Association of Chief Police Officers lead on knife crime and Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: 'I am pleased that so many people took this opportunity to hand in those knives and sharply bladed instruments that they no longer need to own.

WEvery knife that is taken off our streets is one that cannot be used to kill, maim or intimidate and I want to thank everyone who made use of the amnesty and made our communities safer places.

'The amnesty is certainly a step in the right direction and I hope it will prove to be a catalyst in changing the culture of routine knife possession, minimising the opportunity for the serious harm that can follow from the violent use of a knife.'

The Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which is currently before Parliament, contains several measures to address knife crime. These will increase the age limit for buying knives by two years to 18 and will make it illegal for people who own knives to use other people to hide or carry such dangerous weapons on their behalf.

Community groups have until 4 August to apply for money from the Home Office Connected Fund to help tackle issues like knife crime.

The government is encouraging police forces to help reduce knife crime through:

* weapons awareness programmes in schools and youth organisations

* leaflet and poster campaigns aimed at young people

* working with retailers to prevent them selling knives to under 18s

* increasing high visibility police patrols in knife crime hotspots

* encouraging licensed premises to routinely scan customers for knives as a condition of entry

* greater use of magnetic searches in key public places such as bus and train stations

* making maximum use of intelligence to target people thought to be carrying knives

* test purchasing operations with trading standards to crack down on irresponsible retailers

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