Why won’t they lock up Britain’s knife thugs? Four in ten criminals caught repeatedly with knives avoid jail – as swathe of fatal stabbings hit London
- A mother found her 16-year-old son stabbed to death in Tulse Hill, south London
- It was the capital’s fifth knife death in six days and 119th killing this year
- Police logged a record 39,332 knife offences nationwide in the half year to June
- Doctors warned of a ‘significant peak’ in knife attacks after school
- MPs said only one in four urgent police call-outs was related to crime
Four in ten criminals caught more than once with a knife are spared prison.
Nearly 5,000 repeat offenders avoided jail despite a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ rule. The shocking figures were revealed following the third fatal stabbing of a London teenager inside a week.
Adults caught with a knife for the second time should be locked up for at least six months under laws rolled out by the Tories in 2015.
Police officers on Greenleaf Close, Tulse Hill, south London, where a 16-year-old boy died on Monday evening
But, of the 13,056 people convicted of a further knife offence over the past three years, 4,908 were given suspended sentences, community punishments, fines or cautions.
‘These figures give the lie to the Government’s tough talk on knife crime,’ said John Woodcock, an independent MP who sits on the Commons home affairs committee. ‘It seems that “two strikes and you’re out” is anything but.
‘Communities being blighted by the huge rise in stabbings are in desperate need of fresh thinking and more police resources to end this nightmare. This presents a bad image for Britain. It risks damaging our reputation.’
As police chiefs warned of a knife crime epidemic in major cities:
- A mother found her 16-year-old son stabbed to death in Tulse Hill, south London;
- It was the capital’s fifth knife death in six days and 119th killing this year;
- Police forces logged a record 39,332 knife offences around the country in the half year to June;
- Doctors warned of a ‘significant peak’ in knife attacks after school;
- MPs said only one in four urgent police call-outs was related to crime.
The Ministry of Justice figures will fuel fears that police are losing control of the streets amid a surge in crime, the rise of ‘county lines’ drugs gangs and widespread concern over ‘Wild West Britain’.
Under the ‘two strikes’ system, minimum sentences were introduced for those aged 16 and over who are convicted of a second or subsequent offence of possession of a knife or offensive weapon.
The punishments are at least six months imprisonment for adults, while young offenders face a minimum four-month detention and training order.
Judges must impose the minimum sentence unless there are particular circumstances relating to the latest offence which would ‘make it unjust to do so in all the circumstances’.
Official MoJ figures analysed by the Daily Mail show that between 2016 – the first full year of the ‘two strikes’ regime – and June this year, just under 40 per cent of repeat knife offenders were spared jail. This will provide fresh ammunition for claims that courts are going soft to save money and reduce overcrowding in jails.
Jai Sewell, 15, was stabbed to death outside a fast food takeaway 100 yards from his home
Rocky Djelal, 24, who was stabbed to death in Southwark
David Green, of the think-tank Civitas, said: ‘If parents are to have a chance of discouraging their children from joining gangs, the best argument they could have is that gang leaders soon end up serving many long years in jail.
‘Tragically, as the Daily Mail’s analysis shows, the system is failing law-abiding parents. Even when caught carrying weapons the majority of criminals are given feeble sentences that neither punish nor deter.’
Ann Oakes-Odger, who founded KnifeCrimes.Org after her son Westley was stabbed to death, said: ‘We are far too lenient on people caught carrying knives.
‘We really need for offenders to see that sentencing is not only robust but sends a strong message to deter them.’
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Figures from the MoJ show knife crime has surged to a seven-year high. Courts dealt with more than 21,101 knife cases last year – the highest number since 2010. Experts have pointed to a link between the surge in knife violence and a huge reduction in the number of stop and searches carried out by the police.
The checks have fallen dramatically since then-home secretary Theresa May introduced reforms to reduce the ‘excessive and inappropriate’ use of the tactic.
Map showing the five separate stabbing murders in south London in the last week alone, including a 16-year-old on Monday evening in Tulse Hill
Overall crime reported to police soared to a 13-year high of 5.6million in the year to June – an average of one alleged offence every six seconds.
A Government spokesman said: ‘Knife crime has tragic consequences which devastate families and shatter communities.
‘Under this Government, those convicted of carrying a knife are more likely to go to prison than ever before and for longer, but sentencing is rightly a matter for the independent courts.’
The spokesman said the average custodial sentence length for knife possession had increased by eight months.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who unveiled a Serious Violence Strategy this year, tweeted yesterday: ‘I am absolutely determined to tackle knife crime and will work with anyone to stop this senseless violence. This is an issue we are confronting head-on. I will not write off a generation of young people.’
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