News: Knife crime research published by Fellow could reduce violence

Published: 17 Sep 2020

News: Knife crime research published by Fellow could reduce violence

Research carried out by Leisa Nichols-Drew (CF 2018) into ways of reducing knife crime and domestic homicides has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Science & Justice. Forensic scientist and university lecturer Leisa carried out the research following findings gathered during her Churchill Fellowship. The results of the study were published in August and show that rounded-tip knives could dramatically reduce violent crime.

“The recommendations from my Churchill Fellowship have directly led to this research and I am so thankful to WCMT for the opportunity" Leisa Nichols-Drew, Fellow

Knife crime is an increasing problem in the UK and figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there were 45,627 recorded offences in 2019. This is a 49% increase compared to 2011 when recording began, and it is the highest number on record.

As part of the study, Leisa carried out 300 ‘stab tests’ using five different types of knifes on various items of clothing to examine the damage done by each knife. The results revealed significant differences between the stab hole size and shape, depending on the design of the knife, with the rounded blade not causing any damage.

“The sharp tapered point of knife blades is the primary feature that will result in an injury. If we remove the point, we can still have a functional item that can be used for its intended use, such as preparing food, but it will be much safer,” explains Leisa.

The rounded knife (Knife B pictured above) did not cause any perforation to clothing during the experiment  

Sharp implements were responsible for 39% of all homicides in England Wales between March 2009 and March 2019, as reported in the Home Office Homicide Index. Leisa’s new research will highlight the availability of safer knives and options for preventing life-threatening injuries.

“A&E trauma consultants, pathologists, police officers, charities and forensic practitioners have long campaigned for knives to have blunt or rounded ends, as we have no requirement for a pointed tip,” says Leisa.

The research was led by Leisa in collaboration with her colleagues Dr Rachel Armitage and Dr Kevin Farrugia at De Montfort University, Professor Rob Hillman at the University of Leicester and Dr Kelly Sheridan (CF 2020) at the University of Northumbria, who is also a Churchill Fellow.

As part of her Churchill Fellowship, Leisa travelled to Australia and Canada to investigate best practice in forensic science approaches to knife crime investigations. Her findings showed that proactive and preventive measures, suhc as those in this latest research, will reduce violent knife crime.

Leisa says: “The recommendations from my Churchill Fellowship have directly led to this research and I am so thankful to WCMT for the opportunity. I am committed in continuing this campaign and preventing people from being injured with kitchen knives.”

Read Leisa’s research in the Science & Justice journal

View Leisa’s profile