The former trouble hot-spot the Palace Pavilion
Crime in Hackney is at its lowest level for 10 years which is great progress. But unfortunately Hackney still has higher than average levels of gun crime. As an MP I have campaigned successfully for longer sentences for carrying a gun and a complete ban on imitation weapons. I will continue my campaign to tackle gun crime. However, to a greater degree than in almost any other category of serious crime, the community has a role to play in the fight against gun crime.
In 2006 Hackney licensing review committee's decided to shut down the Palace Pavilion nightclub in Clapton. The review was triggered in response to the atrocious double shooting outside the nightclub on New Year's Eve. The club has a long and bloody history and the decision to close it was long overdue. There is evidence that the club's owners have not dealt appropriately with troublemakers and that they have persistently violated the terms of their licence. The time was ripe to shut this club down permanently and we have to be more proactive in dealing with this problem.
However, tackling Hackney's gun crime problem will require more than a shutdown of a trouble spot. We have seen fatalities on its doorstep time after time. Shutting down the Pavilion is a great example of the local community coming together to combat anti-social behaviour. I have always said that the community has a crucial role to play in the fight against gun crime. It is not usually a secret who commits these devastating crimes and we need to cultivate an atmosphere in which people are willing to come forward and expose these thugs. I am so pleased to see Hackney residents come together to show we remain united against further loss of life to meaningless violence.
I was thrilled when it was announced that tougher sentencing for firearms possession under Labour has successfully convicted more offenders and given them longer sentences since the 2003 Criminal Justice Act was implemented. The proportion of offenders getting an immediate prison sentence for carrying a firearm is four times what it was in 1995. Average prison sentences for possessing a firearm are almost four times what they were in 1995 and sixteen times as many offenders are being sentenced to 5 years or more in prison than under the Conservative government. Having spoken out about the need for tougher sentencing in order to put people off using guns or becoming involved in gun culture, this news suggested the Government has finally listened and upped the ante against firearms offences. Those who use or carry guns should be under no illusion that they risk a long spell behind bars for their crime. I am very pleased to see that the Courts now treat the possession of firearms with the gravity it deserves.
However there is still much work to be done, and gun crime is not just about tough sentencing. Sadly 80 per cent of gun crime in London is "black on black", often involving boys in their teens. As a black woman and the mother of a teenage son this is frightening and wholly unacceptable. A fundamental and persistent problem is the continuing educational underachievement of black boys in particular. We cannot ignore the direct connection between underachievement and drifting into crime. Success in our fight against violent crime depends on satisfactorily addressing this issue. (See the section on my education campaigns for more details on how I am working on these issues).