U-Turn on knives following backbench pressure

An amendment to the Justice Bill, co-signed by Mike Freer MP, will mean 16 and 17 years olds caught with knives will receive a minimum four months in prison.

The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, yesterday accepted Nick de Bois’ (MP for Enfield North) amendment, which will hand down mandatory sentences to older teenagers caught in possession of a knife.  In the future 16 and 17 year olds will face a minimum four month Detention and Training order, two months in custody and two months close supervision. A judge can increase this minimum level of sentence by two month increments to a maximum of two years.

The amendment was co-signed by Mike Freer and a number of other Conservative backbenchers.  Ken Clarke was reportedly opposed to extending mandatory sentencing but was forced to change his mind following pressure from his Conservative colleagues.

Following the Government’s announcement, Mike Freer MP said, “The Government always planned to introduce mandatory sentences for adults, but like many Conservatives I agreed that this should be extended to older teenagers.  We must send a clear signal to potential offenders that knife crime will not be tolerated. 

Strong sentences aren’t a silver bullet, and more clearly needs to be done with early intervention, but this deterrent is an important part of the fight back against knife crime.”

Currently 30% of people who commit a ‘level one’ offence, such as an unprovoked attack which leaves the victim seriously injured, are not being sent to prison.  The forthcoming Justice Bill already planned to introduce mandatory six-month sentences for adults convicted of using a knife to threaten or endanger life.