Pubs to be forced to search customers for knives

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The Independent Online

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, will today announce a series of measures to tackle knife crime, following a spate of stabbings described as "shocking and tragic" by Gordon Brown.

The plan was finalised after the Prime Minister met the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, at Chequers yesterday to discuss the crisis. Ms Smith has written to police chief constables to highlight their powers under the Violent Crime Reduction Act to crack down on licensed premises that could be at the centre of unruly and criminal behaviour.

The police are to force pubs and clubs associated with knives or guns to search people on entry, under threat of losing their licences. Trading standards officers are being told to step up test purchasing to stop sales of knives to under-18s.

People convicted of carrying a knife will be made to visit A&E departments to see the impact of stab wounds, and to meet families of victims, as well as those imprisoned for knife crime. Youth forums will be extended to encourage young people to stay away from knives.

The new measures will focus on knife hotspots in London, the West Midlands, Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and Essex.

Ms Smith said: "I am absolutely shocked at the tragic and senseless loss of life we have seen recently. I want to reassure everyone that the Government is taking the issue of knife crime very seriously." She added: "We must tackle this violence head-on. That is why I am today outlining further tough measures, coupled with early intervention and support for parents."

The Home Secretary has pledged to "increase the visibility of sentencing" for knife-related crime, in an attempt to reassure the public that the courts are coming down hard on offenders. But she rejected calls from David Cameron to have all knife offenders sent to jail, saying: "It is simplistic and wrong to pretend that prison is an easy answer."

The latest attempt to gain control of a crime that has provoked concern throughout the nation comes as the death toll from stabbings continues to rise, with the deaths of four people in a single day last week.

Figures from the British Crime Survey have revealed specific instances of knife crime for the first time. Although maintaining that "recorded crime statistics show that knife crime is broadly stable", a Home Office spokesman admitted last night: "We have always recognised that figures do not tell the whole story."

The shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve, called the Government's approach "staggeringly complacent", saying: "As a result, violent crime has doubled, inflicting misery on too many victims. All we have had is constant legislation."