Developing

Tougher knife crime laws 'won't work'

By Alex Stevenson

A guaranteed jail sentence for all those convicted of using a knife to threaten or endanger others is meeting a frosty reaction from campaigners.

From today the offence of aggravated knife possession means a mandatory custodial sentence, as part of a raft of other offences and sentences being introduced to demonstrate to voters the coalition has a tough approach to law and order.

"Criminals should be in no doubt they will be punished for their crimes, with those who commit the most serious offences receiving the most severe sentences," justice secretary Chris Grayling said.

"Anyone who commits two very serious sexual or violent offences will get a life sentence, those who try to destroy our communities by threatening and endangering people with knives will face a mandatory custodial sentence and those who devastate lives by dangerous driving will face the harshest penalties."

But Kate Whaley from the Mothers Against Murder And Aggression charity told the Today programme the knife crime shift would not necessarily make a significant difference.

"It's always going to be the case that if you use a knife, you're probably going to end up in jail. What we need to do is find ways to stop young people from carrying knives in the first instance."

Michael Turner, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, told the same programme: "Once our children are thrown out on to the street, they are going to carry knives. We've got to tackle this in a very, very different way."

He warned that the changes were likely to be "torn to shreds in Europe at a considerable cost to the taxpayer" and warned that the changes were removing or curtailing the discretion of the judiciary.

"The Conservatives promised at the last election that anyone caught in possession of a knife would be jailed," shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said.

"Today's announcement is a broken promise as it only applies to threatening someone with a knife and leaves judges to decide whether to give a prison sentence.

"By over promising to the voters and under delivering when in government, the Tory-led government are eroding public confidence in our justice system."

Also introduced today is a mandatory life sentence for all those convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent crime and a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum five-year jail term.