Mother of murdered schoolgirl calls for better education on knife crime

·3-min read
Ava White (family handout/PA)
Ava White (family handout/PA)

Educating children about the dangers of knife crime is key to preventing more tragedies, the mother of a murdered schoolgirl has said.

A 15-year-old boy was sentenced to a minimum of 13 years on Monday for the murder of 12-year-old Ava White, who was stabbed in the neck in Liverpool city centre on November 25 last year.

Her mother Leanne said: “I think education is key. I think we need to be going into primary schools and starting at a young age to educate the kids on what carrying a knife does, the effects it has on the families, the child that’s lost their life and their family.

The society that we live in today needs to be educated on how the ripple effect of knife crime affects families, the damage that it causes and most importantly any families affected by murder are left with a life sentence to live that never ends

Ava White's sister Mia

“If you put a knife in your pocket you are intending to use it and you are not only destroying your own life but the life of your family as well.”

Judge Mrs Justice Yip praised Ava’s older sister Mia, 18, for speaking “bravely” about the impact of knife crime in a statement she read during the sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown Court.

Mia said: “The society that we live in today needs to be educated on how the ripple effect of knife crime affects families, the damage that it causes and most importantly any families affected by murder are left with a life sentence to live that never ends.

“No early release, nothing.”

The coffin of Ava White is carried into Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral for her funeral (PA) (PA Archive)
The coffin of Ava White is carried into Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral for her funeral (PA) (PA Archive)

During the trial, the boy was asked why he had taken the flick knife, which had a 3in (7.5cm) blade, into the city centre that evening.

He said: “Because I thought I was big.”

Superintendent Phil Mullaly, the knife crime lead for Merseyside Police, said the force and partners work with children from a young age to try to change their perception of carrying a knife.

“What we have seen in Merseyside is a reduction of 11 to 15-year-olds who are victims of knife crime, from around 8.5% to around 5.5%, so the reductions are there in the last year in terms of young people involved in knife crime,” he said.

“But clearly one victim is one victim too many and we absolutely understand that.

“There is a raft of work that goes on to ultimately work in that preventative space around tackling the perception of carrying a knife, especially amongst young people within Merseyside.”

He said the force works with other agencies, including public health, housing and education authorities, in the Violence Reduction Partnership.

Ultimately what will happen is a sequence of events that they don't have an awful lot of control over, and things happen without much thought when there is a knife in your possession

Detective Superintendent Sue Coombs

“We know if we can intervene at that younger stage with, say, an educational input, or some bespoke mentoring, we know that we can change the path of a young person’s thought process to carrying and picking up a weapon.”

Merseyside Police said a comprehensive review will be carried out into the circumstances of Ava’s murder and whether anything could have been done to “prevent or predict” what happened.

Detective Superintendent Sue Coombs said: “Young people think they’re taking a knife with them for protection or to to feel bigger or braver.

“But ultimately what will happen is a sequence of events that they don’t have an awful lot of control over, and things happen without much thought when there is a knife in your possession.

“That’s the tragedy of the sort of cases. Nobody would think through that this was the right thing to do, but, because they’ve got easy access to something they’ve brought out with them, this kind of tragedy tends to happen.”

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