Weapons seized from children as young as seven in West Yorkshire schools

Flowers are left at the gates of Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds following the murder of Ann Maguire. Picture: Ian Hinchliffe/RossParry.co.uk
Flowers are left at the gates of Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds following the murder of Ann Maguire. Picture: Ian Hinchliffe/RossParry.co.uk

When William Cornick murdered Ann Maguire at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds two years ago, he became the first pupil to kill a teacher in a British classroom.

But police figures show at least 38 weapons were seized in or near West Yorkshire schools during 2016 – the equivalent of three every month.

A lot of our focus is around education and prevention.

Chief Inspector Alisa Newman

They include lock knives, stanley knives and craft knives as well as four knuckle dusters and a pistol.

The most commonly held though were kitchen knives, with 13 seized by police during the course of the year.

In addition, at least 52 offences of possessing a weapon were recorded where the item was not specified.

It is little wonder then, that police recognise the need to teach schoolchildren in Leeds about the risks to themselves and others if they decide to carry a weapon.

Chief Inspector Alisa Newman, who oversees the force’s work in Leeds schools, said: “A lot of our focus is around education and prevention. Knives cost lives.”

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A total of 36 secondary schools in Leeds have a dedicated Safer Schools officer whose role includes talking to young people about drugs, weapons, rights, responsibilities and crime levels where they live.

“That’s key to interacting and engaging children around risks they pose themselves and others,” said Chief Insp Newman. “We’re also talking with children’s social care to look at a package for primary schools as well.

“With the schools engagement, it’s really important around all of the risk areas for children we start as early as we can.”

It might seem unnecessary to be teaching younger children about the dangers of carrying weapons, but one Freedom of Information request reveals that the youngest child in West Yorkshire to have a weapon confiscated between 2013 and 2015 was just seven years old.

The same data showed that almost 60 per cent of the pupils who had weapons confiscated from them at school during that period were aged between 11 and 14 years old.

Chief Insp Newman said the reasons for young people carrying a weapon can be varied, but bullying or fear of becoming a victim of crime can both be factors.

“There’s certainly cases where people may feel it does give them a level of protection,” she said.

“Part of the education and engagement is looking at why they might feel pressurised and look at the broader issues that may be affecting a community or school. It’s just as important as taking the weapon away.”

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