Wednesday, July 23, 2008

For Heaven's Sake!

The BBC and some papers are carrying reports today that manage to be confused and misinformed at the same time. It's just another facet of the knife-crime panic, so let's get one or two facts straight:-

Banning the sale of knives has had, and will continue to have, a negligible impact on knife crime. There are 25 million households in the UK and practically every one has a number of potentially lethal knives in the kitchen - I myself have about fifteen.

71 shopkeepers have been fined, mostly £500 or less against a maximum of £5000. Maximum sentences are for the worst possible case and for a conviction after trial, as a guilty plea earns a one-third discount. The maximum for drink-driving is also £5000, and the usual fine is also £500 or less. There's nothing new in that. Nobody has been sent to prison for selling knives, which is hardly surprising when police continue to caution for their possession.

Knife crime is a serious problem, albeit one that is largely confined to certain urban areas and certain social groups (notice any common factor in the faces of the victims above?) The courts have a part to play, and the Court of Appeal acknowledged this in May with its guidance that we should all sentence towards the top of the range, but there is no quick-fix solution.

I suppose this is what we should expect during the Silly Season with a dearth of hard news, and heavyweight politicians all away on their travels. Still, the Olympics will soon be upon us and we can expect wall-to-wall coverage to drive every other kind of news off the front pages.

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