It's an attempt to understand violent youth crime but can a TV series really do anything to help combat the problem? George Kotschy witnessed the show, with Cherie Blair as the star, at Birmingham's Town Hall.

Can five people on a commission for a TV programme help solve violent youth crime in Britain? That's what the Channel 4 Street Weapons Commission, headed by Cherie Blair, is attempting to do with hearings in five major cities.

The Birmingham stop, in the middle of the tour, involved a broad range of witnesses including Warwickshire's Chief Constable, Keith Bristow; Ann Oakes-Odger, the mother of a boy stabbed to death, and former gang member Chris Lew.

The investigation comes at a time when knife crime is a hot topic. A man was stabbed to death on Oxford Street on Monday, and 13 teenagers have been fatally stabbed in London since the start of the year.

Yesterday's hearing, filmed by Channel 4 for broadcast this summer, presented an odd spectacle. Inside Birmingham's majestic Town Hall, the commission was set in a gloomily lit room with a handful of members of the press.

Alongside were TV crew, including cameramen, technicians and a woman whose job it seemed was to occasionally stand and put her hand in the air.

In this strange environment sat the panel at one table and the witnesses at a smaller one opposite.

Given the controversy surrounding her memoirs, and her position as chair, Cherie Blair was the centre of attention. Dressed in lilac, Mrs Blair aka Ms Cherie Booth, QC, was clearly attempting to prove she is still committed to the noble cause of helping stop violent youth crime.

As each witness was brought out she introduced them, then presented the first question to each individual. Her competency in this role varied as much as the guests' background.

On certain issues she was insightful and thoughtful, mainly those in which she could show her legal background. Her questions to Suzette Davenport, Assistant Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police, were an example. On the other hand she was found wanting when faced by former gang member Lew.

She opened the commission's line with "Are there guns in Britain and what do they do?"

Given the previous three hours of the commission had discussed gun and knife crime and the loss of life it can cause, this seemed a strange question.

Any hopes of getting Mrs Blair to comment about her memoirs disappeared as quickly as she did as the cameras switched off.

The commission was thorough and detailed, at times overly so, but the question remains: what can it achieve?

It was established the reasons for knife and gun crime include drugs, poverty, desperation, frustration and a lack of initiatives to encourage a more positive path.

The solutions seemed less clear.

> Video games, soap operas and the glorification of crime