Knife crime initiatives in Thames Valley educate children after Olly Stephens murder

  • Watch the report by ITV Meridian's Mel Bloor

A senior police office has warned the murder of schoolboy Olly Stephens "should horrify us as a society".

In a statement following the conviction of two teenage boys at Reading Crown Court yesterday, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard described Olly's death as a tragedy that should never have happened.

He also said we all have a duty to educate and protect the children of our communities, to ensure other families do not suffer the same devastation. 

There are a number of initiatives aimed at reducing knife crime among young people in the Thames Valley, including programmes run by schools and local football clubs.

Olly Stephens

The murder of 13-year-old Olly Stephens in January, sent shockwaves through the community and further afield. It has led to a call from Olly's parents to end knife crime.

In a statement issued through police after his death, Olly's family described the youngster as "an enigma" who "could get his own way with a wry smile and a cheeky grin".

They added: "An Olly-sized hole has been left in our hearts."

The Ben Kinsella Trust said knife crime is one of society's most pressing problems and one of the most complex.

Patrick Green, CEO, The Ben Kinsella Trust said: "We need to focus on educating and talking to all young people about the dangers of knife crime because if we don't they're only going to get messages about carrying knives through social media, the internet or through their peers and they are not the most reliable of information sources."

Figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed 23 children aged 17 or younger were murdered with a knife or sharp object in England and Wales between March 2019 and March 2020. 

In Basingstoke, an area facing a high level of knife crime, children are being encouraged to talk about the issue and raise their fears and concerns.

Madison, Student, The Ashwood Academy said: "I think knife crime is a big issue especially now as more people are starting to carry knives for their own protection and because they're scared."

Keeley, Student, The Ashwood Academy said: "I'd only really think it was big in London but recently as I've grown up it's got worse in Basingstoke and I think it's dangerous and it's not right."

Meanwhile, a clay sculpture made by children whose lives have been affected by knife crime, is currently touring schools in Hampshire.

The aim is to raise awareness of the issue and offer young people a safe space for discussion.

Cat Cooke, Hampshire Cultural Trust said: "We had a young man who talked about his experience and he put it down to one word, which was split second.

"It was his split second decision which tragically ended in a lot of families being hurt, so this sculpture with 244 tiles, is a reminder that young people are being affected by this. They want to talk about it."

Knife crime sculpture touring schools in Hampshire Credit: ITV Meridian