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5-year-olds are carrying knives, says mother of stab victim

Town Hall meeting is told youngsters are avoiding weapons searches by hiding blades in parks

14 July, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Michelle McPhillips speaking at the Town Hall

A GRIEVING mother whose son was stabbed to death has warned Town Hall and police chiefs that Islington children aged as young as five are carrying knives.

Speaking at a public meeting of Islington’s Safer Neighbourhood Board at the Town Hall on Tuesday, Michelle McPhillips, whose 28-year-old son Jonathon “JJ” McPhillips was killed in February outside the same Town Hall, said children were hiding knives in Islington parks.

“When they [school children] know the police are going into the school that day to do stop and search, they hide knives in the park,” she said.

“I’m telling mothers in the park opposite the pub where I work, ‘check the ground’, because the youngest child that’s been caught with a knife is five years old – he was carrying it for his brother or sister.”

Venetia McNally, a member of Islington’s Youth Council, speaking at the Town Hall on Tuesday

She also told the meeting, which was chaired by borough commander Catherine Roper and council leader Richard Watts, that she felt unsupported by the police while her son’s killers remain at large.

“There’s nothing from anyone,” she added. “The borough needs to look after the people that have been victims. I pay for my own posters and beg the shops to put them up, you understand?”

In a moving five-minute speech, Ms McPhillips pleaded with Chief Supt Roper to let her and other relatives of recent knife crime victims educate children about the perils of knives.

“I’ve approached the police, asked them to let me come in [to schools], to not glorify the fact that my son’s been killed but to show the effect it has on the remaining family,” she added.

Ms McPhillips also urged Town Hall chiefs to stop relying solely on the Ben Kinsella Trust to educate youths. The Trust was set up by the parents of the Barnsbury teenager after he was stabbed to death in 2008. Last month it celebrated educating 10,000 school children about the dangers of knife crime.

“No disrespect to the Kinsella Trust,” said Ms McPhillips. “If I started a charity it would be based on the same system. But he’s not the only victim of knife crime. We have to look at other people.”

Jonathon ‘JJ’ McPhillips was stabbed to death in February

Audience member Venetia McNally, 17, a former student at Holloway School where Ben Kinsella attended, said she was never taught about the risks of carrying a knife.

She added: “Schools are failing us in the sense that they’re not giving us this education. Schools don’t like targeting knife crime because they feel they are admitting their children have a problem and they don’t want to do that. I knew people in my year, personally, who carried knives.”

Ms McPhillips was invited by the board to future meetings and to meet with leading councillors to discuss how to improve knife crime education in the borough.

But she clashed with Venetia on the controversial issue of police stop and search. Ms McPhillips said she welcomed frequent stop and searches by officers, adding: “People will complain but the people who complain are [often] the ones carrying.”

Venetia, a member of Islington’s Youth Council, said young people felt stereotyped as gang members by frequent searches.

Chief Supt Roper said she was a “huge supporter” of stop and search, but added: “There needs to be external scrutiny to hold the police to account.”

The board also unanimously passed a motion supporting zero tolerance to bullying and hate crime.

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