Justice Minister Heather Humphreys told the parents of Cameron Blair, the young student brutally stabbed to death in an entirely unprovoked attack last year, that she thought their call for a graphic campaign on knife crime in schools was a ‘brilliant idea that could prove very effective’.
Noel and Kathy Blair met the minister and her officials this week following an emotional interview with the Irish Mail on Sunday last month where they told of their despair at the horrific death of their beloved 20-year-old son in Cork in January 2020.
Speaking after the meeting, Cameron’s parents said they were heartened to hear the Department of Justice was looking into making the parents of young offenders more accountable for their children’s actions.
Mr Blair said they would be kept up to speed on knife-crime developments and were given a contact in the department to whom they could send their opinions.
‘They seemed to think the campaign for schools was a great idea and I would say it is something they are definitely going to look into,’ the father of the chemical engineering student told the MoS.
‘From when children go to secondary school, if they are made aware of a visual campaign similar to road-traffic campaigns with graphic pictures, that would be effective because we need to stamp it out before it becomes an issue.
‘They didn’t say yes or no, but they said it seemed like “a brilliant idea that could be effective”. They thought it was a great idea.’
Mrs Blair also said the minister had agreed that an anti-knife campaign in secondary schools was a good idea.
Her husband said the department was looking into making parents of knife crime offenders more accountable.
‘We brought that up yesterday. I told them if me, as an employer, sends a man over to your house and he causes some damage or does harm to you, you’d come back and go after me, I am responsible. But if, as a parent, your child is over 12, you are not responsible. Once the child is over 12 they are responsible for themselves,’ Mr Blair added.
Ms Humphreys assured the Blairs they would be kept informed on measures relating to knife crime and the ongoing work they are doing in the area.
‘They were also told they could submit their own opinions to her department.
‘They said they are going to forward us what they are doing now. They are also going to send us out that whenever they are making the rules and regulations – we can send in our opinions,’ said Mr Blair.
‘I told them AdVIC [homicide victim’s organisation] would be an ideal organisation to be getting information from. They would have a wealth of information and should be brought in whenever you are around the table.
‘I told them you get a much better picture when you are getting it right from the horse’s mouth,’ he said.
Describing the meeting, the Blairs said the minister and her officials were ‘polite’ and ‘interested’.
‘Her own personal adviser said they were going to put a package together of what they are doing and they are going to email it out to us and we can respond,’ said Mr Blair.
‘And they are giving us a contact for correspondence with them to keep us updated. I wasn’t expecting that. I was going to ask for that but they brought it up themselves.
‘In fairness to them, we had a good conversation back and forward and they explained issues very well and they are going to keep us informed.
‘They took a lot of notes and they seemed interested in what we were talking about and I would say they understand there is a big problem,’ he continued.
Mrs Blair described how she ‘felt they really listened to all our suggestions’.
She told the MoS: ‘Changes are coming but it won’t be overnight. In our opinion, we feel right now that the district and circuit court judges can make a big difference by handing down harsher sentences rather than lighter sentences and seeing them reoffend over and over again.’
Mr Blair said they are fighting now to help future victims of knife crime.
‘All that we are doing is for Cameron. He is who this is all about. I know this isn’t going to help us but, hopefully, it will help some other innocent.’
A spokesman for the minister this weekend said the department is: ‘Carefully considering the issues raised by the Blair family and will continue to engage with them’.
The spokesman told the MoS: ‘Minister Humphreys welcomed the opportunity to meet with and listen to the parents of Cameron Blair and express her deepest sympathies on their devastating loss.
‘It should also be noted that Minister of State James Browne is chairing the second meeting of the Knife-crime sub-group of the Anti-Social Behaviour Forum next week, where a range of issues relating to knife crime will be considered and discussed.’
In an interview with the MoS last month, Mrs Blair told of the ‘agony of losing a child’.
‘We can never be truly happy again. It’s like, as I say to my friends, living a half-life.
‘You go out and you’re meeting people and you’re laughing and, you know, you are having fun sometimes, but you’re not really 100% in that moment. You’re always thinking about your son – it never leaves you.’Internet Explorer Channel Network