Chris Grayling: Teens who carry knives need a clip round the ear

June 10, 2009 at 2:09 am Leave a comment

by Amy Bourke

Teens involved in knife and gang crime need “a 21st century version of the clip round the ear”, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said today.

Mr Grayling pledged to get tougher when sentencing young people who are caught carrying knives or who commit other knife crimes, but criticised the penal system for not giving sufficiently harsh custodial penalties.

The proposals were made in an Opposition day debate on knife crime, in response to a Home Affairs Committee report on the subject.

He said: “The starting point should be that anyone carrying a knife without a reasonable excuse should expect to be prosecuted… People convicted of carrying a knife should expect to receive a custodial sentence.”

The Conservatives suggest giving the police powers to work with a local magistrate to apply community service penalties that do not give young people (who have not committed serious crimes) a long-term criminal record.

But they also say that “a precursor of a tougher approach on knife crime is getting more police officers out from behind desks and on to the streets… reducing police bureaucracy and paperwork.” ASBOs were dismissed by Mr Grayling as “cumbersome”.

He said: “We need both the carrot and the stick to deal with the problems of youth crime and knife crime. Up and down the country really worthwhile youth projects are helping, particularly in areas of deprivation where serious trouble and criminality can develop.”

The number of people stabbed to death in England and Wales increased from 201 a decade ago to 270 in 2007–08, the highest figure on record.

According to recent figures, 22,151 serious offences involving knives were recorded in England and Wales in 2008. That is equivalent to 400 a week, or one every half hour.

A 2008 MORI youth survey indicated that 31 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds in mainstream education and 61 per cent of excluded young people had carried a weapon at some point during the preceding year.

The Shadow Home Secretary stopped short of condemning a “broken Britain” when he insisted that the “the vast majority of young people are decent, law-abiding citizens, getting on with their lives, taking their exams, working on a Saturday morning and having fun on a Saturday night.”

Opposition day debates are traditionally used for the Opposition to criticise Government policy. However, on this more civilised occasion Mr Grayling used the debate to gather cross-party support on a difficult issue.

But Mr Grayling couldn’t resist heckling Alan Johnson, the new Home Secretary.

He said: “I wondered whether he might prove to be the shortest-lived Home Secretary in the history of this country, but following last night’s meeting of the parliamentary Labour party it appears that he might have to wait a little longer before he gets the opportunity to move into No. 10.”


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