Reid confirms increased sentences for knives

The government is actively considering raising the maximum sentence for carrying a knife, John Reid has confirmed.

The home secretary said the level of public concern about the use of knives demanded a review of the current two-year maximum for carrying a blade in a public place, and said some weapons, in particular samurai swords, would be specifically banned.

His comments come after a number of high-profile stabbings, including the fatal attack on 15-year-old Kiyan Prince outside the gates his north London school last month.

However, Mr Reid stressed that although the number of young people carrying knives had gone up in recent years, the percentage of murders in which knives were the main weapons remained static at just under one third.

Following these very public cases, it was reported that ministers were going to increase the maximum sentence for carrying a knife to five years, but this was subsequently denied by the Home Office – prompting allegations of “spin”.

But facing questions in the House of Commons this afternoon, the home secretary confirmed he was considering raising the maximum sentence for carrying a knife, although he refused to say what this new limit would be.

“I fully accept there is a level of public concern which obliges me to think we might need to examine the sentencing,” Mr Reid told MPs.

He said a decision would be taken before the violent crime reduction bill reached the report stage in the House of Lords, although insisted it would have to be backed up by education about the dangers of knives.

The Conservatives welcomed the announcement, but shadow home secretary David Davis questioned why Mr Reid had voted against a proposal to raise the maximum sentence only last year.

But the home secretary dismissed this: “There was a different secretary of state there and just as I made different judgments as secretary of state for defence from the present incumbent, then I will make different decisions as home secretary.

“That is the nature of government, and of collective cabinet responsibility. I have come to this position and listened to what has been said – rather than be interested in the process, I would hope [Mr Davis] would be interested in the substance of what I’m saying.”

On Friday, the government announced that 17,715 weapons were handed in during the first week of the national knives amnesty which began last month. Among these were machetes, meat cleavers and axes.