Knife law under review as father stabbed

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Carrying a knife in public could lead to an automatic prison sentence under a review of the law following a spate of fatal stabbings.

At present, people caught with a bladed weapon without a reasonable excuse can be jailed for up to four years, but there is no minimum sentence for the offence.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, is prepared to toughen the penalties in an emergency amendment to an anti-crime Bill currently before Parliament. The Tories are calling for the maximum penalty for carrying a knife to be increased to five years. The Government is expected to accept the proposal and is also examining whether a minimum sentence could be introduced.

Home Office sources insisted no final decisions had been reached and stressed they could only be taken in consultation with police and the judiciary.

However, the expectation is growing that tougher jail sentences are on the way as part of the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which is expected to become law by the autumn.

The Bill includes moves to raise the minimum age for buying a knife from 16 to 18 and to give head teachers the power to search pupils for knives.

In the latest incident, a man was stabbed to death in an argument over 40p as he made his way home from a community fun day in Bristol. Barry Wilson, age 29, died after being knifed at about 4.30pm on Tuesday in the Knowle area of the city. Neighbours said the attack was witnessed by the victim's three children, outside their house in Ilminster Avenue. The killer was seen running from the scene.

Detective Chief Inspector Guy Vickers said: "The two men argued and as a result, the offender ran into a house and picked up a knife before returning and stabbing the victim."

A 30-year-old man from Knowle West in Bristol was arrested last night on suspicion of murder and was last night being being questioned at a local police station.