Knife crime pledges must become reality
GOVERNMENT plans to get tough on knife crime will be nothing but “spin” unless they are properly imposed, it has been claimed.Ann Oakes-Odger is campaigning for longer sentences after her son Westley was stabbed to death at a cashpoint in Colchester last year after a minor disagreement in the queue.
GOVERNMENT plans to get tough on knife crime will be nothing but “spin” unless they are properly imposed, it has been claimed.
Ann Oakes-Odger is campaigning for longer sentences after her son Westley was stabbed to death at a cashpoint in Colchester last year after a minor disagreement in the queue.
The 27-year-old's killer, Andrew Fredericks, was given a life sentence with a minimum tariff of 15 years for murder, while his brother, Marc, is serving seven years for manslaughter.
She said she has no plans to halt her petition despite the Government's new proposals to tackle knife crime with tougher penalties.
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Among the amendments to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill introduced last year are increasing the maximum sentence for carrying a knife from two to four years and giving teachers more power to search pupils for weapons.
There is also a plan to raise the minimum age to buy a knife to 18, in a bid to stop youngsters carrying blades.
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Announcing the plans, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, said: “I want it to be clear that carrying a knife without a valid reason is wrong and dangerous.
“Those who carry knives must understand that these weapons can be turned on them. Knives do not make anyone safer.”
The amendments will be discussed in the House of Lords next week but Mrs Oakes-Odger, who lives in Colchester, said she was waiting for action, not more pledges.
She said: “They are positive moves without doubt, but they do not make me go 'hallelujah, I can stop my petition and turn the spotlight off knife crime, everything is fine now'.
“If the moves are not implemented because of the current overcrowding in prisons, then they are just spin.”
She said it was important retailers also played their part by taking more responsibility over the sales of knives to youngsters.
“These are improvements in the right direction but I think it is just appeasing the public by trying to quell the rising tide of disquiet about what is happening with knife crime,” she said.
Schools Minister Lord Adonis said: “We are giving our heads and teachers the powers they need to take tough action against violent pupils who take knives and other weapons to school.
“I'm sure that we have the full support of parents, teachers and the vast majority of well-behaved pupils in making schools no go areas for weapons.
“Every child has the right to study in a safe environment. We want to send out a clear message that violence and weapons will not be tolerated in our schools.
“The changes we are introducing will make it easier for concerned staff to take prompt action to protect children, enabling them to search large groups of children at school whenever they suspect a child may be carrying a knife.”
Mrs Oakes-Odger is planning to take her petition for tougher sentencing on knife crime to the Home Secretary John Reid later this year.