Anger as knife-carrying teen walks free

KNIFE crime campaigners voiced their anger last night after a judge overturned a Suffolk teenager's four-month jail term for carrying a blade in public and allowed him to walk free.

Danielle Nuttall

KNIFE crime campaigners voiced their anger last night after a judge overturned a Suffolk teenager's four-month jail term for carrying a blade in public and allowed him to walk free.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been sentenced to four months at a Young Offenders Institution last week for carrying a nine-inch kitchen knife tucked in his sock.

But on Thursday he won an appeal against his sentence at Ipswich Crown Court - after his barrister argued it had been imposed as a result of the “media frenzy” over knife crime.

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Judge Peter Thompson, sitting with two magistrates, agreed that the Mildenhall teenager should not

have been sent to custody and reduced his sentence to a 12-month community rehabilitation order and 100 hours' unpaid work.

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The decision was met by anger last night by Mothers Against Murder and Aggression (MAMAA), who pledged to write to the Attorney General about the case.

Lyn Costello, one of the founders of MAMAA, said: “I'm absolutely appalled. Judges make me so angry. Unless we get tough on our kids for carrying weapons, the killing will go on and get worse.

“We go into schools and while we're there we say if you carry a knife on the street and you do not end up a victim or murderer then you could end up with four years in prison. They must be laughing at us.

“I feel like we're banging our heads against a brick wall. If it's like this now what's it going to be like in the future.

“He was lucky he only got four months. He should have got four years. Until we start doing that our kids won't think twice.”

The teenager was stopped and searched by police in Mildenhall town centre shortly before 11pm on June 6.

He told officers that he had a knife tucked into his sock, held in place with a rubber band. It

was found to be a nine-inch kitchen knife with a five-inch blade.

Prosecuting barrister John Fenn told the court: “He said this was for protection 'because I got jumped by five Polish blokes'.”

The teenager pleaded guilty at Bury St Edmunds Youth Court to a charge of having a bladed article in a public place.

His barrister, Nicola Furlong, told the court that on the day her client was sentenced by magistrates in Bury there had been four articles about youth knife and gun crime in a single national newspaper.

In the preceding week, there had also been no fewer than nine television programmes on the same subject, she added, describing the coverage as a “media frenzy”.

Miss Furlong went on to say that a month before his arrest the teenager had been attacked by a group of five others.

“They were considerably bigger than him and he was very frightened. That is why he says he was carrying the knife,” she told the court.

“He says that he acted in genuine fear on that night. He had no intention to use it. He intended to show it to anyone who attacked him as a deterrent.”

However, Anne Oakes Odger, whose son Westley Odger was stabbed to death in Colchester in 2005, criticised the sentence imposed last night.

Mrs Oakes-Odger, founder of and Westley's Weapons Awareness, said: “Recently Britain's most senior judge called for tougher sentences because of what's now considered as a serious knife crime epidemic.

“To overturn this serious situation which has been creeping up on society for a couple of decades we need to send out a clear message, not just in education but also taking a tough line on those who carry knives.”

Figures revealed by the EADT last week showed there had been a 147% increase in offences involving the use of knives by under 18s in Suffolk in four years. In 2007/08, there was an average of four offences every month.

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