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Idris Elba: There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to tackling knife crime

Actor and campaigner Idris Elba has said there is no “one size fits all” solution to tackling knife crime after the parents of a student who was killed in the Nottingham stabbings called for mandatory jail terms for possession.

Dr Sinead O’Malley and Dr Sanjoy Kumar, whose daughter Grace was killed in Nottingham on June 13 last year, have said there needs to be a “massive deterrent” against using knives and called on the Government to “urgently” examine the issue.

Elba said that a deterrent which makes youngsters realise they face a punishment “is an important step” but “there are gradients” to the issue as some people carry knives out of fear.

Asked if he agreed that there should be mandatory sentences, he told BBC Breakfast: “The truth is when you really check the stats out, there are more kids carrying knives out of protection and fear than they are as perpetrators.

Don’t Stop Your Future campaign
Idris Elba during the launch of his Don’t Stop Your Future campaign launched this month in Westminster, central London, calling for the immediate banning of machetes and so-called zombie knives (Yui Mok/PA)

“And so if that child is worried about not having a knife, walking into a neighbourhood, and thinking I’m gonna protect myself here, and he ends up in jail for five years, you kind of wonder, are we winning?”

Fresh legislation is to be laid in Parliament to tackle zombie-style weapons in England and Wales, with a ban due to come into force in September making it illegal to possess, sell, manufacture or transport the blades.

Zombie-style knives were first banned in 2016 but ministers hope these tighter measures will stop some retailers being able to sell dangerous knives and machetes without breaking the law.

Elba, who has been an outspoken campaigner about the issue of knife crime and has met the parents of victims, added: “I absolutely think that a deterrent that makes kids or young people know that if you carry a knife you will pay the penalties is an important step, we need to have the gradients around that and critical thinking to make sure that we’re not just sending someone (to prison) that’s feared for their life.

“There are some kids that have been stabbed before and carry a knife because they don’t want to get stabbed. There were some kids that carry a knife because they’ve seen someone else get stabbed, does that kid necessarily need to go to jail?

“Now as a deterrent, I think it’s a really important step to really consider. I don’t disagree with Grace’s mum at all. There is not one size fits all unfortunately.”

The comments come a day after Dr O’Malley, a consultant anaesthetist, told the BBC that carrying a knife was “no different” to carrying a gun.

She said: “I believe there has to be mandatory prison sentences for carrying a knife.

Ian Coates, Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar
Ian Coates, Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar (Nottinghamshire Police/PA)

“It is not just an offensive weapon or something you could eat your food with. It is a lethal weapon.”

On Thursday Valdo Calocane, 32, a paranoid schizophrenic who killed three people including Dr O’Malley’s daughter and attacked three others in a spate of “atrocities” in Nottingham, was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order.

Judge Mr Justice Turner told Calocane he would “very probably” be detained in a high-security hospital for the rest of his life after “deliberately and mercilessly” stabbing students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, and school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, in the early hours of June 13 last year.