Revealed: ‘Frightening’ number of children caught with knives in Hampshire’s schools

Knife crime is a growing problem
Knife crime is a growing problem
Fareham Borough Council offices

Warnings after two men claiming to be from Fareham Borough Council try to access homes

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THE extent of the hidden knife crime threat in schools can be revealed today in an investigation by The News.

Together with our sister paper the i, Johnston Press Investigations found weapon offences in Hampshire schools have more than doubled within four years.

While Hampshire police refused a freedom of information request asking for figures on knives in schools, a senior headteacher from Gosport has confirmed there are increasing concerns nationally about the ‘normalisation’ of blades being carried by youngsters.

Alternative data provided by Hampshire police revealed they received 24 reports of possession of weapons, not just knives, for under-19s in 2016 – up from 11 in 2012.

In recent years teenagers have been slashed by knives outside or nearby schools.

Since 2012, 24 pupils in Portsmouth were excluded from schools for weapons-related incidents, according to separate city council data.

In 2015 two primary school children were caught with pen knives at Whiteley Primary in Gull Coppice.

And a 16-year-old boy had a flick knife pulled on him at Hayling College in a 2011 incident.

The force warned its data could accidentally include place names with the word ‘school’ in them.

But the data showed weapons possession had gone up each year, from 12 in 2013, to 15 in 2014 and 17 in 2015.

Johnston Press Investigations found police across the country received at least 2,405 reports of children possessing knives and other weapons in schools since 2012.

Bay House School headteacher, Ian Potter, said knife crime was not a ‘major issue’ in schools in the area.

But he said: ‘It’s undoubtedly a topic of conversation that is happening across the country with regard to how schools have clear messages about keeping, particularly where there’s gang culture, those issues outside the school gates.

‘Schools spend their time creating environments where youngsters can feel safe, where they can leave behind what they’re dealing with outside in the community and focus on preparing for their futures.

‘For youngsters caught up with feeling they may have to protect themselves between gangs outside they often will recognise that entering a school gate gives them their escape.’

Since this academic year started in September, nationally there have been 173 cases of children possessing knives, 150 crimes, 10 assaults and 12 other incidents where a weapon was seized.

The investigation follows a series of high-profile knife attacks in schools including the notorious stabbing of a schoolgirl in a Hampshire school, and the deaths of teacher Ann Maguire, who was stabbed by a pupil while teaching Spanish at a college in Leeds.

Robert Buckland QC, the solicitor general, told The News: ‘These are frightening statistics.

‘The message still has to get through to young people that carrying a knife for your own protection is probably the most dangerous thing you can do.’

He added: ‘Knives are just as much a lethal weapon as a gun.’