Memorandum submitted by Ann K Oakes-Odger
My son, Westley Odger, was murdered in an unprovoked
fatal knife attack at 3 pm on 12 September 2005. It took place
in front of people of all ages including young children. Despite
every effort to save Westley, many of those people present witnessed
him bleed to death from "the neck wound that had severed
his carotid artery"those people were left traumatized.
Many, including the children, suffered subsequent nightmares and
It became evident both from the trial of Westley's
killers and in other cases, of victims families' stories who have
contacted me, that the perpetrators of knife crimes are generally
treated in law with less severity to that of gun crimes. Even
where perpetrator(s) have committed repeated prior "knife
related offences"they have not been given custodial
sentences. In April 2005 both of the killers responsible for Westley's
death had made threats to kill to a Police Officer when apprehended.
They were on their way to attack a bouncer in Colchester town.
He had called the police after being told they were coming back
to kill him .When stopped in their car they were found to be carrying
a samurai swordmaking "threats to kill" to the
These brief details of my personal story...
one clear example (of which there are countless others) that knife
crime is treated with less severity! Had the same set of circumstances
been applied to person(s) carrying a gun, making threats to kill,
especially to a Police Officerwith previous "violent
behaviour"need I say more? Certainly, I feel sure
that the incident in April 2005had it been a gun at issue,
it would have resulted in a custodial sentence... and my son would
still be alive today!
"Society seems to be suffering from a `nonsense
reality'... If you get shot you'll die... but, if you get stabbed
you won't... both methods very effectively take life... both methods
enter the body by penetration".
At the end of the trial of Westley's killers
on 4 August 2006 a petition was launched to highlight the knife
problem, as well a highlighting the insufficient sentencing of
those guilty of murder and/or manslaughter... many members of
the public, well as other victims' families feel the same!
In England and Wales over the past nine years
a total of 2,026 people have been stabbed to death, as opposed
to those killed by a shooting, which totals 601. These deaths
should not have happened by either means.
"Having researched the figures of `Knife
Murders v Gun Murders'... alarmed to find that `Fatal Stabbings
outweighed Fatal Gun Deaths' in the UK by three to one... whilst
many `knife attacks' are often not reported".
I can illustrate many cases dating back to 1995,
for example the Head Teacher, Philip Lawrence who was stabbed
and killed at his school gates, in support of the fact that knife
crimes are a serious and growing problem. It is also clear that
on a number of occasions the issue of knife crimes and fatal stabbings
has been raised in the House of Commons and recorded in Hansard!
One example is that of the House of Commons
Hansard written answers for 3 November 2004 (pt 14) wherein, under
the heading of "Knife Crimes" a number of issues were
raised such as the question of what were the recorded figures
for fatal stabbings since 1997. Other points included Section
139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which prohibits the possession
of an article with blade or point in a public place without good
reason or lawful authority, with the exception of a folding pocket
knife with a blade not exceeding three inches. Yet this is still
on the Statute, and Section 139 still applies.
It is requested that any provisions and/or amendments
to this Act provides that the penalties imposed in law for "Knife
Crimes" are treated in exactly the same way as the penalties
imposed for Gun Crimes.
Even in Colchester, Britain's oldest recorded
town, despite its wealth, private schools, University of Essex
and 2.4 semi-detached suburban success, young people and children
are using guns as well as knives to make a "statement"
for "so-called" defence reasons. Colchester has reported
knife incidents running at one per week, and far too many knife
murders have happened since that of Westley Odger in September
2005. This must change: for the future of our young and old alike,
we cannot and will not live in fear! Despite Essex being considered
a very safe countywe must still be vigilant to the under-current
and look beyond the surface!
"Death is a one-way ticket and the Grim
Reaper doesn't care about colour, race or creed. Whether you're
upper-class, middle-class, disabled or able bodied... young or
old, male or female... "Death holds no Prejudice!" The
pain this kind of violent death delivers is the same too... terrible,
whoever you are!"
School bullying or the perception of fear, the
threat of mobile phones being taken or money, are reasons given
for carrying weapons. Also peer pressure, to feel macho or tough
or gain "respect".
Getting involved in gangs brings with it many
other damaging issues... substance abuse, legal and illegal drugs
sold on the street. Possible involvement in the sex trade to feed
a "habit"... street robberies/muggings and burglaries.
It has been disclosed by Scotland Yard that they are aware of
169 gangs in London, each have around 20-30 members.
Street gang graffiti is one of the most common
ways for gangs to communicate their existence and their message.
Organised graffiti is one of the first signs that street gangs
are taking hold in your neighbourhood. It is also an excellent
way, with reliable sources of "intelligence" to track
gang growth. It is evident in Colchester and has been for some
time. It is evident not only in London, but in towns and major
cities around the UK, as well as the Home Counties that gangs
and organised crime exists. These issues are not far-fetched,
"organised crime" is evident all over the United Kingdom...
in fact, its tentacles spread county to county, even country to
We must not allow falsehoods to continue through
"If you get shot you'll die... if you get
stabbed you won't... both methods very effectively take life...
both methods enter the body by penetration! If you need to look
at the difference it's simply this... one form is delivered from
more or less any distance "a propelled bullet"whilst
the other is delivered up close and personal, hand propelledthe
After the trial of Westley's killers, I was
driven to make a difference, to ensure that another family might
be spared the pain of losing a loved-one needlessly. I believe
that a National Weapons Awareness programme should be delivered
in schools, clubs, Young Offenders... in this respect I am working
in these areas delivering the "BE SAFE PROJECT" strategy.
Having spent a number of years in the field of drug and addictions
counseling, I have included these issues, along with the implications
of getting involved in both drugs and gangs.
"Where Gangs are prevalent they run the
neighbourhood and challenge you to join!"
KnifeCrimes.org will continue to resource comprehensive
information to work with all UK Police Forces, Community Agencies,
Schools, Clubs, Young Offenders and the like... in a continued
effort to reduce violent crime and help make all communities nationwide
In an ideal world we should be able to boast
to the member countries who will take part in the 2012 Olympics
that Britain is one of the safest places in the world. Not only
to visit for the Olympic event, but for a holiday to see the fine
examples of historical architecture... to come back again and
again to discover the whole country. Its beauty, its peoples,
its amazing diversity of landscapes and customs as well as its
contribution to worldwide technological advancement. We are a
civilised society... aren't we?
As anyone can see, we now have only a short
time to clean-up our act: five years! This time must be spent
wisely, in a "clean-up" on a nationwide basis. Let's
be clear, this problematic cocktail of violent use of weapons,
whether it be knives or guns, has to be eradicated before 2012not
just because of the Olympics, but because it's right.
There must be a review of how a person found
carrying a knife or gun is dealt with and/or charged (Magistratessix
months maximum sentence imposed for an offence?) At what point
and under what circumstances would the matter be referred to Crown...
so serious basis? Any penalties put in place to deal with knife
crimes as well as gun crimes must be capable of being implemented.
Nationwide education in Weapons Awareness, information
to young people to challenge their existing views on guns, knives,
gangs as well as drugs. All the criminal implications that could
effect their decisions and choices in later life. If you become
a person with a criminal record those choices are limitedjob
prospects in Britain or abroad will NOT be open to you in the
same way. Travel abroad may not be possible, even for a holiday.
If informed young people make an informed decision to cross the
line in the sand, which is the law, then the penalties must be
clear and tough.
Positive Role Models are needed,
that Young People respect and aspire to!
Zero Tolerance and Assertive Policingwhere
the line in the sand is crossed!
Certainty of Punishmenta clear
and tough message of deterrent!
22 February 2007