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Idris Elba on knife crime: I don’t want to see my son in a hospital bed

Idris Elba is campaigning to reduce knife crime (Jeff Moore/PA)
Idris Elba is campaigning to reduce knife crime (Jeff Moore/PA)

Actor Idris Elba has said he is calling for the banning of machetes and so-called zombie knives because he does not want to see his own son or any child “in a hospital bed”.

The Luther star, 51, who is father to two sons and a daughter, said the Government’s current crackdown is a “step in the right direction”.

Fresh legislation is to be introduced to Parliament on Thursday, which Home Secretary James Cleverly said seeks to “close that loophole” on outlawing the weapons.

Zombie-style knives were first banned in 2016 but ministers hope these tighter measures will stop some retailers being able to sell dangerous knives and machetes without breaking the law.

Elba, who has been outspoken about the issue of knife crime and has met the parents of victims, told BBC Breakfast: “It is only a step in the right direction, because it’s such a long road to go.

“There’s so many facets to this issue that needs to be addressed, but banning them outright, the sale, the manufacturing of them in our country, is a step in the right direction. I feel that’s a good step.”

He added it was “a small win” for the families of the victims of knife crime, who are “sitting there wondering why our Government hasn’t done something like this earlier”.

He continued: “Even though they have done it before, they let so many loopholes in it allowed the sales to continue. So, this is a lot more robust.”

However, he expressed reservations that swords are not included in the legislation, describing it as “a loophole”.

Elba also said he has “concerns” about whether the legislation is achievable, telling BBC Breakfast: “We’ve seen in the past that it hasn’t achieved, in fact you see knife crime rise in certain instances. But I do think there is a slightly more joined-up approach.”

He added: “We are all grieving the loss of life, but at this junction I think we can really pinpoint the parts that have let us down before and go ‘right, OK, that didn’t work. Let’s fix that. Let’s fix that. And let’s fix that’.”

Asked if he thought stop and search could be effective, he said: “Stop and search has taken knives off people but it is almost like putting a plaster over a major wound.

Idris Elba during the launch of his Don’t Stop Your Future campaign in Parliament Square earlier this month, calling for the immediate banning of machetes and so-called zombie knives
Idris Elba during the launch of his Don’t Stop Your Future campaign in Parliament Square earlier this month, calling for the immediate banning of machetes and so-called zombie knives (Yui Mok/PA)

“You have to understand stop and search sometimes antagonises communities, where the youths don’t have any other thing but to be a part of a gang.

“That antagonism causes more friction, causes a lot of disruption in the neighbourhood right now.

“Of course if you stop someone and they’ve got a knife and you take it off them, that’s a win. But it’s a band-aid, it’s a plaster, it isn’t a preventative measure.

“I think we need to find other measures that really address the reasons why young people are using knives.”

Asked if he thinks politicians have a proper understanding of the issues around knife crime, Elba said: “I really can’t talk about what politicians think or don’t think.

“Just because they’re a politician doesn’t make them qualified to know what’s going on on the streets.

“But the streets do, the communities do, the mothers and the victims do, and what we need to do is listen to them as well, we need to understand.

“Stats are stats. But the truth is I’m a parent, I’m doing this as a parent, I’m doing this because I don’t know what the stats are, I just know I don’t want my son or any child to find themselves lying in a hospital bed because our Government hasn’t really addressed this properly.

“So, I really don’t want to talk about what the thoughts of politicians are. I will say this, though, we have to move in the right direction. I think today is significant in that direction.”

During his campaign, Elba has met the parents of the victims of knife crime and described the profound effect it has had on him.

He said: “As a parent, you speak to another parent who was there on the first day of that child’s life, and wasn’t there on the day of their passing, and it’s heartbreaking.

“And when you start to unpick why that happened, it starts to become so senseless.

“I just get so angry that we haven’t really tackled this as a nation.

“The parents are the smartest people to talk to about this debate … because they’ve turned every stone to understand what happens to their child.

“And in turning stones, they understand where the flaws are, where the miscommunications are, what the police didn’t do, what the young people were going through, why they got into this in the first place.”