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The devastating impact of knife crime

During Operation Sceptre recently which focused on action against knife crime, I met the mother of Tom Roberts, a 21-year-old man who died after being stabbed in Bournemouth in March 2022. Tom had been acting as a peacemaker in a fight between his friend and his killer when the attack took place in Old Christchurch Road. His killer was jailed for life earlier this year and will serve a minimum term of 29 years.

Tom’s courageous family have shown incredible strength and dignity, and now his mother, Dolores Roberts-Wallace is calling for more education to try and prevent further tragedies happening to other families.

I’d like you to read her words on the impact Tom’s death has taken on the family, and her commitment to knife crime prevention.

“When I got the call from the hospital on that morning, I remember feeling so numb. I was due to go to work when they called me. They said you have got to come now; your son has been stabbed. I remember feeling very calm but unable to process what was happening. It didn’t feel real. I remember thinking what are we doing here? Was he in a fight? I had so many thoughts running through my mind.

Tom’s death was like losing a part of myself. It’s been so hard for all of us. I have to take each day as it comes. We try to be brave every day; I always try and smile but I have a deeper pain.

Today I watched a video from the day Tom passed his driving test and came to collect me for a drive. He was only 18 then, his face was so happy, and I was so proud of him. He was such a cheeky boy, he loved his food, his roast dinners especially and he always said I was the best cook. He was a happy, polite boy and whenever he saw me, he always took the mickey out of me saying I’d shrunk. Everyone loved him, from primary school and up. He had a cheeky face and was popular with teachers and friends.

Tom worked full time for an engineering company and worked so hard. He’d been DJ-ing for a while but had said to me just before Christmas that he had signed up for the marines and was very busy doing his fitness training. He had everything ahead of him. Every day I look at his pictures and wonder what he would look like now. Before it happened we were planning a dinner with all the family as he was due to go on holiday the week after but we didn’t get around to it in the end. I wish I could have arranged it; I wish I could turn the clock back and do that for him.

As most of you know, what happened to my son should never have happened. So, I am once again campaigning for a safer Bournemouth by asking parents to educate their children about knife crime and the devastating consequences that it could, and most likely lead to. If I was to say anything to young people out there going down the wrong path, it would be that you are not alone, please ask for help. There are so many people out there to support you. Talk more and be engaged with your friends or whoever you are comfortable with. And parents and adults, talk to your young people, be connected, be ready to help. Don’t bottle it up, talk it out. You are not alone.

I believe knife crime education is essential for preventing violence and harm. Raising awareness, encouraging reporting, supporting victims, and routinely educating about the consequences is an absolute must. I believe there should be mandatory visits from anti-crime groups to schools, proper counselling needs to be available for kids with troubled backgrounds, more healthy outlets and after school activities to keep young people out of trouble and off the streets. Education needs to be seen and in front of kids, it must be personal. Not just on paper or read out, it must make an impact.”

Dorset has a low rate of knife crime, but while young people are still picking up knives thinking they are a form of protection, I will continue my campaign to drive down this offence. Education and early intervention is key, but as I’ve said before, the police cannot do this alone. We all need to play part our part to ensure no other families are destroyed by the impact of this crime. I will be relentless in my efforts to make Dorset the safest county.

David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

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