Tougher knife crime sentences face delays to avoid prison overcrowding

Changes could require more than 2,000 extra prison places and cost £43 million per year

New guidelines to automatically jail any offenders caught with a knife for the second time could require more than 2,000 extra prison places and cost £43 million per year.

An amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill from the Conservative MP Nick de Bois, which would bring in sentencing guidelines of mandatory six-month jail terms for repeat adult offenders, is likely to be passed in the Commons on Tuesday after gaining support from backbench Conservative MPs and Labour.

But an analysis of Ministry of Justice figures on the number of people caught with a knife for the second time shows the new law could lead to demand for 2,200 more prison places every year.

If Mr De Bois's amendment passes, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is now expected to delay the changes due to the "substantial new pressure" it would put on the prison system.

Click HERE for larger chart

While the figures count incidents rather than individuals, and could therefore include some offenders more than once, they were sent to the Independent from the Ministry of Justice to give "an idea" of the number of people the new law will apply to.

The Ministry of Justice refused to comment on the specifics of the De Bois amendment and on whether the department has an official impact assessment of the proposed changes.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, told the Independent the plans were bound to stretch an already overstretched prison system, saying: "At a time when Chris Grayling is ordering already overcrowded prisons to take yet more people, the last thing politicians should be doing is fettering the discretion of the courts and ensuring that even more people are jailed and failed by a system that already cannot cope with the demand it faces."

The Howard League estimates that if the changes go through roughly 170 16- to 17-year- olds could be sent to prison - leading to a 15 per cent increase in the number of children in custody.

Nick Clegg has publicly criticised the proposed sentencing changes on the basis that they are too expensive. Because of the government split ministers will not vote for Mr De Bois's amendment but the backbench Conservative MPs have reportedly been "encouraged" to back it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions