Tackling Crime (Supplementary) [5]

Session date: 
November 1, 2018
Question By: 
David Kurten
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


David Kurten AM:  I just want to follow from Assembly Member Arnold’s question about the link between children who are excluded from school, or people in general, and then the propensity to get involved in crime.  I know, Commissioner, you said that correlation is not necessarily causation, but I wondered if the both of you have considered something that you did not mention that may be staring us in the face, which is that family breakdown and fatherlessness possibly is a cause for both of those things.  In London among young people there is an epidemic of fatherlessness, and this particularly affects boys when they get to their teenage years.  I understand from figures that I have that this particularly affects Afro-Caribbean boys, where there is a rate of fatherlessness much, much higher than in the white community or in the Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian communities.  Is that something that you have considered as something that affects the possibility of children and young people getting into crime?  I wonder if you have any comments and thoughts on that.

Supplementary To: 


Answer for Tackling Crime (Supplementary) [5]

Answer for Tackling Crime (Supplementary) [5]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Families come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and I am not persuaded that a particular type of family necessarily leads to somebody getting involved in criminality.  I am aware of and I accept that adverse childhood experiences can lead to children getting involved in criminality at a later age.  For example: children who have seen domestic abuse in their household; children in a family where there has been breakdown; and children whose family members may be involved in drugs or substance abuse.  The evidence from the work undertaken in Scotland and Wales is that if you can address the deep societal issues, which include adverse childhood experiences, you can have a big impact in relation to preventing crime.  That is one of the motivations behind the Violence Reduction Unit. 


That will not lead to crime going down overnight, but over a generation - in Scotland that was ten years - you can make a real impact in relation to stopping young people necessarily getting involved in criminality.  I am a firm advocate and believer in being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.  Smaller class sizes, Sure Start facilities, parenting classes, youth services, investing in young people.  I am not sure if I accept your thesis.  Let me rephrase that: I do not accept your thesis. 


David Kurten AM:  All the things that you have said - youth services, smaller class sizes - are all very, very good.  You did mention children who have been from a family breakdown as one of the things - I noticed that you did say that - among other possible traumatic experiences that children have, so perhaps you do partly accept my thesis.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I speak from personal experience.  When you speak to people who have been through an acrimonious divorce, it is horrible.  It is horrible for those children.  If you speak to a young person whose family has had other forms of breakdown, it is horrible.  I would not equate a type of family with the increase in violent crime we have seen.  If you speak to criminologists, police officers, experts and others about the reason for the increase in violent crime in particular, that is not the explanation they give.


David Kurten AM:  OK.  Thank you for your answers.  Sorry, did you want to say something, Commissioner?


Cressida Dick CBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I speak as somebody whose parents were divorced when I was six, and my father died when I was 11.  I am sure many other people in the room know lots of fatherless people who have, because of other protective factors in our lives, done well, if you like.  I said goodbye to one of my senior officers the other day whose mother arrived from Ireland with £20 in her pocket - a very successful senior officer - having left her violent husband.  She arrived, and all the girls have done fantastically well, and the boys as well.  On fatherlessness per se, I am slightly with the Mayor, but what we do know is there are a number of protective factors and a number of risk factors.  If you are going home to an empty house, if you are finding yourself without a role model that you can rely on, a safe adult who will give you good support and advice, you are absolutely at more risk.  There is just no doubt about that.  That is why the teacher, the police officer, the person in the youth centre and the other reliable adults can be so very important.  There are a variety of ways in which families break down and in which children experience ghastly things. 


David Kurten AM:  OK.  I think I understand your thinking.  OK.  Thank you.