The mother of Ava White, a 12-year-old girl who was stabbed to death, says new police powers to tackle adult knife crime should also be applied to younger offenders.
When Ava was murdered in Liverpool city centre in 2021, it was a crime that stunned and appalled the nation.
Her mother Leeann, now a knife crime campaigner, says she broadly welcomes the introduction of a pilot scheme to allow police to stop and search adults over 18 who have previously been convicted of carrying bladed or offensive weapons.
But, she says, it should be extended to include younger offenders.
“I think it should be brought down to 12,” she says.
“There are children as young as 12 carrying knives. Ava’s murderer was just 14. And maybe if these powers had been introduced earlier then the knife that killed her could have been taken off the streets.”
Merseyside is one of four police forces taking part in a two-year trial of the use of serious violence reduction orders, or SVROs. The others are the Thames Valley, West Midlands and Sussex.
SVROs are civil orders that can be placed on over 18s who have been convicted of an offence involving a bladed or offensive weapon.
They give police the power to stop and search the individual.
It’s a controversial issue, with the use – and misuse – of stop and search often being criticised.
“Stop and search is incredibly traumatic and harmful,” according to a representative of the human rights campaign group, Liberty.
“Imagine every time you walk down your local high road or on your way to school, and being stopped and searched by police.
“It’s incredibly humiliating, and ultimately, it’s not effective. Why do we invest so much in a tool that we know alienates young people? It causes distrust, and doesn’t do anything positive to make our communities safer and more thriving.”
Superintendent Phil Mullally, Merseyside Police’s lead for serious violence and knife crime, says: “Both serious violence and knife crime are falling in Merseyside, but we know there is still work to do. These new powers will enable us to continue to drive down knife crime and reoffending.”
“They will enable a more proactive approach for repeat offenders and will help us protect those most vulnerable from being drawn into further exploitation by criminal gangs.”
The Home Office website says an SVRO only applies to a person and not to a vehicle, they also do not apply to anyone who is with the person who has the SVRO.
It also says that SVRO stop and searches must be recorded on the officer’s bodycam.
Merseyside Police acknowledges that nationally, recorded knife crime has risen over a period of several years.
However, it says that in Merseyside, January 2023 saw the lowest level of knife crime since April 2020 – and the lowest level of overall serious violence since February 2021.
Since 2019, and up to January 2023, Merseyside Police has seized over 10,000 weapons and made over 3,000 arrests for serious violence offences.