Labour 'playing politics on knives'

Stabbings row: Tories defensive over action to tighten controls on weapons
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Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, yesterday accused Labour of playing "petty party politics" over his plan to tighten the law on the carrying of knives in the wake of the murder of the headteacher Philip Lawrence, stabbed outside his school in north-west London.

Mr Howard announced that the Government would support a Private Member's Bill introduced yesterday by the Conservative MP Lady Olga Maitland, which would allow police to arrest anyone carrying a knife without needing a warrant, and to raise the maximum penalty to six months' jail.

Jack Straw, Labour home affairs spokesman, said he supported the Bill but that it was too little, too late. Continuing Labour's attempt to outflank the Government as tough on crime, he repeated his demand for even longer jail sentences and more restrictions on the sale of knives.

Mr Howard told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There are some people who will play petty party politics in almost any circumstances." He accused Labour of having invented its demand for controls on the sale of knives in the course of Tuesday. Mr Straw retorted later that Labour had tried to amend the 1994 Criminal Justice Act to control the mail order sale of knives.

An inquest into the death of Philip Lawrence heard yesterday that the headmaster, a 48-year-old father of four, died on Saturday, eight hours after being stabbed in the chest outside St George's Roman Catholic School in Maida Vale.

Detective Superintendent Brian Edwards, who is heading the investigation, told the hearing: "We are treating his death as murder and have set up an inquiry to find the people responsible. We are not yet in a position to proffer charges." The inquest adjourned.

Meanwhile, a woman was remanded in custody for a week when she appeared in court yesterday charged over the stabbing of a doctor in his surgery.

Maria Caseiro, of Holloway, north London, was charged with causing grievous bodily harm following an incident involving Anthony Inwald, 59, who was stabbed, and another doctor, Judith Sharpey- Schafer, at a Holloway medical centre.

Ms Caseiro was accompanied by a Portuguese interpreter at the hearing before Highbury Corner magistrates. No application for bail was made. She is due to appear in the court on 20 December.

t A police officer was stabbed by a man as he attended a domestic dispute in Ousten, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham. PC Peter Walsh, 35, needed surgery and a 10-pint blood transfusion after the attack. Another officer was slashed across the face with a long-bladed Bowie knife by the man, in his twenties, who was later arrested.