This week the soaring number of murders in the UK’s capital has been in the spotlight, with four people being killed in as many days, bringing the total number of murders in London alone to 51 in 2018 so far. This has led to headlines highlighting that London had a higher murder rate than New York in February and March this year, with England and Wales also experiencing the highest rate of fatal stabbings since 2010/11 in the year to March.
Tensions between the UK and Russia have escalated further this week as the Kremlin has demanded an investigation into the chemical attack that took place on the streets of Britain. This was voted down at the UN Security Council 15 votes to six, with 17 abstentions, clearly demonstrating that the international community remains supportive of the UK’s position despite questions being raised about the source of the chemical used.
Murder rates in London soar
London has been experiencing a spike in murders in recent months and in February and March had a higher rate of murders than New York. TheDaily Telegraph has reportedon a man in his 20s who was stabbed to death last night, taking the murder toll in the capital to more than 50 so far in 2018. Scotland Yard is currently investigating 55 suspected murders since the start of 2018. This has contributed to the highest rate of fatal knife crime seen in England and Wales since 2010/11. There have been 215 fatal stabbings in the year to March.
Speaking to The Times,Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick announceda taskforce of 100 officers to tackle violent crime in the capital and announced that police would be cautiously encouraged to use stop-and-search despite it having been stopped after police were accused of racial profiling. Ms Dick called it shocking that young black men were 10 times more likely to be killed than other demographics. Ms Dick partially attributed the rise in fatal stabbings to “socioeconomic factors,” illegal drug dealing, and media usage, particularly among children, which meant that “trivial disputes could escalate into violence within minutes.”
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott opposed the reintroduction of stop-and-search when speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programmeon the grounds that there was no evidence that it reduced knife crime. Labour MP for Tottenham (where four people have been killed since Christmas) David Lammy has condemnedPrime Minister Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd for failing to address the issue or even visit his constituency and said that the violence was fueled by “McMafia gangs” making reference again to the influence of socioeconomic factors in such violence.
Defence chief calls for more RAF funding to counter Russian aggression
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier has writtenin the Daily Telegraphas part of the RAF’s 100thbirthday celebrations, saying that the RAF is at its busiest for generations and must modernise to keep up with and ahead of other states. He believes that the superiority that the UK has enjoyed in air capabilities is under threat. Sir Stephen highlighted the crucial role the RAF had to play in defending communications and GPS networks, and that “We need the resources – money and people – to make all this happen, whilst still driving modernisation and efficiency.”
Sir Stephen said that the RAF remains “at the forefront of the defence of our nation, not least in the face of an assertive and aggressive Russian threat to us, our allies and the international rules-based system”. RAF capabilities are regularly used to defend British airspace even in relative peace; Typhoon aircraft on quick reaction air defence duty have been called on 42 times in the past year.
This supports the National Audit Office’s report earlier this year which determined the MoD’s equipment plan to be unaffordable with the current MoD budget. Sir Stephen is the latest defence chief to make the case for the current defence review, the Modernising Defence Programme, to call for more funding for the MoD. Both the MoD and the Defence Select Committee are consulting on the Programme, and the DPF is submitting written responses to both inquiries. The MoD is due to report its key findings from the Modernising Defence Programme in July.
Defence Select Committee outlines threat posed by North Korea
The Defence Select Committee has publisheda report on the threat posed by North Korea amid its increasingly aggressive and capable activity, particularly with nuclear weapons, entitled Rash or Rational? North Korea and the threat it poses. The Defence Committee conjectures that recent engagement between North Korea and South Korea as well as the US “has begun to reduce tensions,” but is unlikely to result in the termination of North Korea’s nuclear programme.
The report concluded that “it is possible” that North Korea already had the capability to strike the UK with an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile carrying a nuclear weapon and “it is almost certain” that it will be able to do so within the next six to 18 months. However, North Korea has not yet demonstrated the ability of “nuclear warhead miniaturisation or re-entry.” The report determines the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to be a rational actor and so the international community’s retaliation to him starting a nuclear war with the UK or, more likely, the United States, means “he could be dissuaded and deterred from launching a nuclear weapon.”
The report finds, however, that the UK is likely to “continue to suffer from reckless North Korean cyber-attacks” citing Wannacry, a worldwide ransomware attack in 2017 that the UK, the US and Australia blamed North Korea for. The report also contends that North Korea would “have few, if any, qualms about promoting nuclear proliferation.”
Victims’ Commissioner calls for police to investigate low-level crime
The Daily Telegraphhas reportedthat Baroness Newlove, the Government’s Victims’ Commissioner, has criticised police for using a lack of resources to justify not investigating low-level crimes. Baroness Newlove, who was appointed as the first Victims’ Commissioner in 2013, said she is “passionate about neighbourhood policing” and that people’s confidence in the police was being damaged by their reporting of crime being handled over the phone or email. She said that anti-social behaviour should not be considered low-level considering the mental and physical impact it had on victims. She regarded such an approach to policing as allowing anti-social behaviour to “fester” and in some cases inevitably leading to more serious crime being committed.
Speaking of her late husband Garry’s experience of what started with anti-social behaviour and resulted in his being murdered outside their home in Warrington, Baroness Newlove said: “It is as if they are making the excuses for the police, but it isn’t all about money. There was money available years ago but they still didn’t come. Garry’s case started off with criminal damage and he ended up losing his life.”
Baroness Newlove’s comments come after the Metropolitan Police made the controversial decision to not investigate low-level crime, such as thefts of goods worth less than £50 and car break-ins, in order to focus resources on the increasingly resource-consuming investigating of more serious crimes such as sexual assault and cybercrime. The Force cited funding cuts as a reason why they made such a decision, demonstrating the impact of funding cuts on policing capabilities.
Police arrest two suspected of plotting Islamist terror attack
Counterterror police have arrested two men in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, on suspicion of plotting an Islamist terror attack, The Timeshas reported. They were taken in for questioning about preparing and carrying out acts of terrorism as “part of a proactive, intelligence-led investigation.” The men were arrested two streets away from the former home of the UK’s youngest suicide bomber, 17-year-old Talha Asmal, who died carrying out an attack in Iraq in 2015; and a couple of miles from Mohammad Sidique Khan who led the terror attacks in London on 7 July 2005 which killed 52 people.
Superintendent Marianne Huison of West Yorkshire police said: “I understand our local communities will have concerns about this morning’s police activity, but I want to offer my reassurance that we will continue to serve and protect the public of West Yorkshire. Public safety is our utmost concern.”