Special chicken boxes to warn about dangers of carrying a knife

Alan McGuinness, political reporter

Special chicken boxes warning about the dangers of carrying a knife are to be distributed to takeaways across England and Wales by the government.

More than 320,000 of them - featuring the Home Office #knifefree campaign - will replace the standard packaging in 210 outlets.

Real-life stories of young people who have escaped knife crime will be printed inside the boxes, distributed at independent and branch-owned chicken shops, including Morley's, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken.

They have been criticised by senior Labour figures, including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who said called the boxes a "crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign".

MP David Lammy also asked on Twitter: "Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What's next, #KnifeFree watermelons?"

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said they will "bring home" to young people the "tragic consequences" of carrying a knife, and "challenge the idea that it makes you safer".

He added: "The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police's ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets."

Many of the shops that are involved in the scheme will also have screens displaying messages from the #knifefree campaign.

The move follows a partnership with Morley's earlier this year, which saw 20,000 #knifefree chicken boxes distributed in 15 branches.

Morley's managing director Shan Selvendran said: "We want to promote being knife free by using custom chicken boxes to deliver the message and start conversations amongst all of our customers."

The aim of the #knifefree campaign is to reduce knife crime by altering the attitudes and behaviour of young people aged between 10 and 21.

The government has also established #knifefree street teams who will visit convenience stores, hair salons, barber shops, places of worship and community centres in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

The teams are comprised of people trained to speak to local communities about the campaign and the risks of carrying a knife.

Knife crime offences hit a record high in 2018-19 - up by 8% on the previous year in England and Wales, according to figures released last month.

The figures revealed there were 43,516 police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument, which is the highest since comparable records began in 2011.