Vera Baird DBE KC

Writer, Lecturer, Parliamentary Consultant and Co-Director of Astraea: Gender Justice

Tackling Knife Crime (Northumberland Gazette article)

Knife crime can have a harsh effect on communities. Across Northumbria, we have seen the devastating effect that knives have caused to families.

I am a firm believer that there should be tougher sentences for those who carry knives and I am pleased that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has given her backing to tougher sentences for knife crime.

An amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill has been put forward which proposes a six-month jail term for anyone convicted of carrying a knife for the second time.

This amendment makes sound sense.

Tougher sentences would send a clear message to those who carry knives repeatedly that it is not acceptable.

The family of 16-year-old Glen Corner in South Shields have campaigned for changes in the law.

In the past, they have lobbied their MP and taken their campaign to the heart of government to demand change.

Glen was tragically taken from them in August 2006 when he died from a stab wound.

Their belief is quite simple – that no one should be carrying knives as they can devastate lives.

I agree totally with this sentiment.

Tackling knife crime has received the support of the two major parties in the House of Commons.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is clear in his determination that legislation should be used to strengthen the law and he is sympathetic to the issue of mandatory sentences after a second offence.

Of course, we need to make sure this is done in the right way.

I believe that in Northumbria, people want to send a strong message to people who carry knives repeatedly.

A similar measure was put in place to tackle gun offences and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said that a simple message is needed.

It was heard about guns and it needs to be heard about knives.

We need to ensure that we educate and rehabilitate those caught up in the knife culture, but just as importantly it is imperative that the police and courts are given support to tackle knife crime.

While we are fortunate in Northumbria that we do not have the same problem with knife crime as in some other areas of the country, we have had tragic deaths in this force area and Northumbria Police will continue to take a proactive stance in tackling knife crime.

Politicians across the political spectrum continue to want this issue addressed.

There is a drive and commitment from the Home Secretary, Leader of the Opposition and Police and Crime Commissioners to see change.

It is now our job to make it happen.