Reid accused of ‘spin’ over knife crime

The Home Office has been accused of “spinning” the story on tougher sentences for knife crime, in the wake of a number of high-profile attacks.

Reports earlier this week suggested home secretary John Reid was going to increase the maximum sentence for carrying a knife to five years – despite voting against such a proposal six months ago.

But the Home Office has now insisted that no decision has yet been made, saying only that ministers are considering making amendments to the violent crime reduction bill currently going through parliament.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said the apparent backtracking showed the government had been “spinning a story to the media in the evening to get headlines, and then backing away from it in the morning”.

“The fact is the government has voted against us when we tried to raise the maximum sentence for carrying a knife,” he said.

“We hope they will take the opportunity, in the violent crime reduction bill, to toughen up sentences by backing the Conservative amendment which would do exactly that.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg added: “Knife crime deserves a clear response from the government, not a series of contradictory and confusing announcements.

“We believe there has always been a case for stricter maximum penalties for carrying dangerous knives. Its time the public was told what the government’s opinion really is.”

Pressure is growing for tougher action on knife crime, following the fatal stabbings of teenager Kiyan Prince and special constable Nisha Patel-Nisra. And on Tuesday, father-of-three Barry Wilson was killed on his doorstep in Bristol.

The first knife amnesty for more than ten years is currently taking place across the UK, and the violent crime reduction bill will tighten the law on the possession of knives, including raising the age at which someone can buy a knife from 16 to 18.

“The government is determined to tackle the devastation of knife crime. With the violent crime reduction bill going through parliament, the opportunity is there to look at ways of strengthening the law on knife possession,” a Home Office spokeswoman said.

“A decision on sentencing will be made before the violent crime reduction bill reaches its next stage in the Lords.”

Diane Abbot, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, welcomed the measures the government was taking – but she warned they must continue even after the press interest in the subject dies.

“For the sake of the mother of Kiyan Prince.a whole generation of young people growing up in our city and this country’s reputation, we cannot afford to let gun and knife-related crime to be only the stuff of a few days’ headlines before we all move on,” she urged.

“We need sustainable work – both law enforcement and community work – that will help to save a generation of young boys who are being sucked up into a malign, lawless and violent culture.”