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Colchester MP to raise question of knife crime sentences in wake of double murderer's previous conviction

Will Quince, Colchester MP

Will Quince, Colchester MP

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Judges are being too soft on knife crime offenders, Colchester's MP has warned in the wake of the murder of James Attfield and Nahid Almanea by a schoolboy killer.

James Fairweather has been found guilty of murdering Nahid Almanea and James AttfieldJames Fairweather has been found guilty of murdering Nahid Almanea and James Attfield

Will Quince will raise the case of James Fairweather, the Colchester Academy pupil found guilty of murdering the pair in separate attacks, highlighting his “totally unacceptable” sentence for a knifepoint robbery carried out in January 2014 just weeks before the first murder.

Fairweather was given a youth court supervision order for the attack in which he stole cigars from a shop, carried out just weeks before the brutal killings.

Mr Quince said he would class holding up a newsagent with a knife as a violent offence with a knife, and that the sentence given out had been way below the guidelines.

“I get he is a minor and it is easy with hindsight to look back and I don’t want to focus on this case, but what I do want to focus on is why, when we have guidelines in place, are judges not using sentencing as a deterrent and as an appropriate punishment, particularly for knife crime,” Mr Quince said.

Toni Knight of Only Cowards Carry, Chief Insp Alan Cook, district commander for Chelmsford, and Shani Jackson of Only Cowards Carry.Toni Knight of Only Cowards Carry, Chief Insp Alan Cook, district commander for Chelmsford, and Shani Jackson of Only Cowards Carry.

He said the recent court case which concluded following the Colchester murders would frame his 10 to 15 minute speech in a House of Commons debate which he has secured to argue that we are being too soft on knife crime offenders.

He will also highlight the work of knife crime campaigners in Essex.

Mr Quince said: “I hold the view that we need to start thinking about offences with knifes in the same way as we think about offences with guns.

“Ultimately if you are going into a newsagent with a gun or knife and robbing it, the intention, the violence intent with the weapon is the critical point.

Some of the weapons collected from amnesty bins in EssexSome of the weapons collected from amnesty bins in Essex

“I think we need to start thinking about knife crime far more seriously as the figures are not on our side.”

He said the most recent numbers suggested that the number of knife crimes was going up in Essex.

Yesterday Essex Police revealed that 6,897 weapons, including one BB gun and a pellet gun, had been handed in to amnesty bins in Colchester, Braintree, Clacton, Chelmsford and Basildon since the initiative was launched in January 2015.

The bins are provided by weapons awareness charity Only Cowards Carry, working in partnership with Essex Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, and local councils.

The blades are sent to the British Ironwork Centre, which is turning weapons collected from across the country into an angel sculpture.

Only Cowards Carry also hope to commission their own sculpture, in the shape of a feather, from locally collected knives.

Chief Superintendent Ewen Wilson said: “The chances of most of us being a victim of knife crime are very low – just a one in 1,515 chance.

“But even one victim is too many and we will continue to take a tough stance on dealing with those caught carrying or using knives, and working with our partners to help people understand that carrying a knife is not the answer to any problem.”

Fairweather is due to be sentenced today at the Old Bailey for the 2014 murders of Mr Attfield and Ms Almanea by trial judge Mr Justice Robin Spencer QC, after his conviction for the offences after a two-week trial at Guildford Crown Court which concluded last week.

The 17-year-old, from Thorpe Walk, Colchester, will also be sentenced for a charge of possession of a bladed article dating to his arrest in May last year, which he pleaded guilty to at the start of the trial.

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