Campaigners want five-year jail terms for carrying knife

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The Independent Online

Relatives of stabbing victims have begun a campaign calling for an automatic five-year minimum jail term for carrying a knife. They also want a minimum sentence of six months for carrying a blade shorter than three inches.

Relatives of stabbing victims have begun a campaign calling for an automatic five-year minimum jail term for carrying a knife. They also want a minimum sentence of six months for carrying a blade shorter than three inches.

The Home Office is expected to announce measures to tackle knife crime tomorrow. A spokesman said these could include raising the minimum age for purchasing a knife to 18, bringing them in line with the sale of fireworks and alcohol.

The new group, called Knives Destroy Lives, has set a three-month deadline for action before embarking on "the largest petition this country has ever seen". Campaigners have written to Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, and chief constables, and delivered a letter to Tony Blair yesterday before meeting MPs. The campaigners argued a child dies in a knife attack every fortnight.

Jayne Walmsley, whose son Luke, 14, died after being stabbed at Birkbeck Secondary School in North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, in November last year, said: "Unless something is done they seem to have no deterrent. Measures have to be put in." Her husband, Paul, said those caught with knives should "serve some form of term in youth custody or in a prison". The group is calling for a five-year minimum jail term for carrying a blade longer than three inches. Richard Taylor, the father of Damilola who was 10 when he died after being stabbed in Peckham, south London, in 2000, said current knife laws had "no effect at all" and it was time for ministers to realise "enough was enough".

Supporters also include Michael Hegarty, whose brother Bernard was killed after being stabbed on his lunch break in east London in August. Antoinette Rodney, whose 15-year-old son Kieran Rodney-Davis died after being stabbed for his mobile phone in Fulham, west London, in June, said: "It's getting worse and we've got to do something about it."

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is meeting police tomorrow to discuss ways of tackling knife crime.

John Denham, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was reluctant to endorse a mandatory sentence, as the courts needed discretion. However, he called for a higher maximum penalty and the increased use of "restrictions on liberty" such as electronic tagging and curfews. He said: "We have too many schools which confiscate knives rather than routinely involving the police and making sure the carriers are charged."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Any consideration of a mandatory minimum sentence for possession of a knife would need to be workable, taking into account the risk of criminalising law-abiding citizens."