Violent crime is the type that people most fear: property can be replaced, life and limb cannot.
I have lived in both the UK and in Singapore. There are many differences between these two countries. Most people are of the view that Singapore is less free and that one's life is less restricted in the UK. There is some truth to this, but there is another side, too. In the UK, there is an epidemic of violent crime afflicting the nation - in Singapore there is no such thing.
In 2006, the Metropolitan Police released a statement that 52 teenagers a week, in London, were subject to knife related crime. That is an astonishing figure and indicates that London is no longer the safe place it was, when I was growing up there. I have seen no figures for Singapore, but in the six years I have spent here, I have only heard of a handful of cases of knife use, in the media, or by word of mouth. It is rare, here.
Why is the UK suffering an epidemic of knife-related crime - and Singapore is not? Well, one key reason is the way the state responds to violent crime. The UK takes a softly softly approach: the penalties for knife crime are really very minor, there. Singapore takes a harsh line, on all crime.
In the UK, in 2006, the Violent Crime Reduction Act increased the maximum penalty for carrying a knife from a pathetic two years in prison, to an almost as pathetic four years in prison. I am not able to find the corresponding penalty for Singapore but, as an indicator, a comparison can be made with gun possession. The possession of any weapon in Singapore is severely punished with lengthy prison sentences and caning (which causes terrible wounds). The use of any weapon in a crime results in life imprisonment and caning. Should anyone be killed by the weapon, the penalty is death - and death is almost inevitable in the Singaporean system. I have never seen anyone "let off".
I have watched the Singaporean legal system now, for several years: punishments for all crimes tend to be severe - and I have never seen moderation in the state's response to crime. In the UK, however, in 60,000 incidents of knife use, only 9 offenders received the maximum penalty. So, the Singaporean state responds aggressively to an individual with a weapon. The UK state does not. Singapore has no violent crime problem; the UK has a terrible one. It is reasonable to conclude that the UK problem is partially caused by its judicial leniency - were they to adopt a harsh response to the possession of weapons, the problem would most probably decline.
In a very real sense, the UK has chosen to have a knife crime problem. They have chosen to have the problem because they have chosen to respond too leniently to the criminals. Imagine that they adopt a harsher penal regime. Imagine that to be found carrying a knife, or any other weapon, would lead to a mandatory penalty of 15 years in prison without parole or bail. Imagine that using the weapon in a crime would lead to a mandatory penalty of life without parole. Imagine that killing someone with the weapon would lead to a mandatory death sentence for the killer. How much knife crime (or other weapon related crime) would the UK have once a few criminals had been sentenced under the new regime? I would think that they would have very close to NO KNIFE CRIME AT ALL.
So, it is up to the government of the UK and its judiciary to solve this problem. All they need to do is come down harshly on the weapon wielders - doing so will make the UK a safe haven, once more, as once it used to be. I really rather hope they do something akin to what I have suggested.
Yesterday, news of the latest teenager to die in a knife-fight in London broke across the world. Rob Knox, an upcoming actor, with a role in the next Harry Potter film, was stabbed to death defending his younger brother and friends from an enraged knife-wielding 21 year old man, outside the Metro pub, next to Sidcup railway station. Rob was stabbed four times, while trying to disarm the man and several others were injured, too. Had the UK a Singaporean style response to crime, it is most likely that this young actor would not have died. It is most likely that his killer would have thought better of the penalty he would receive and not carried a knife in the first place.
Fourteen teenagers have been stabbed to death in London so far this year. How many more must die before the UK adopts a civilized response to knife crime? By civilized response, I mean a response that protects the people of the nation and refuses to tolerate such crime. So, in a sense, one should be as uncivilized as possible to the criminals, so as to preserve the quality of life for everyone else.
Rob Knox's death has brought the knife issue in the UK to the attention of the world. Let him not have died in vain. It is time for the UK to act. Knife crime is easy to stop. All they have to do is make the penalties truly substantial - then it will quickly become a problem of the past.
For the sake of the UK, I hope the government there chooses a better future for its people: stiffen the law, to save the society.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html
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Labels: crime and punishment, Harry Potter, knife crime, Rob Knox, Singapore, the decline of a nation, the failure of the UK judiciary, uk