THOUSANDS of dangerous knife offenders will go free under plans to axe jail sentences under six months, it was claimed yesterday.
The big let-off comes less than a year after ministers announced tougher punishments for anyone caught carrying a blade in public.
Getty – Contributor Perpetrators of knife crime could be walking the streets if short jail terms are scrapped
Furious MPs warned the “idiotic” move risks undermining the government’s blitz on rocketing street violence.
The minimum sentence for youngsters found in possession of a knife is four months, according to sentencing guidelines unveiled last March. For over 18s the starting point is four months.
A total of 1,981people were jailed for up to six months in 2017, the last year for which figures are available.
But Justice Secretary David Gauke has thrown the crackdown into confusion last week by calling for a radical reform of the prison system.
He vowed to change the law if judges fail to phase out sentences of six months or under.The ruling would keep about 50,000 offenders a year on the streets.
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But some colleagues are concerned it will dent police efforts to halt spiralling knife crime, which has reached a 10-year high.
Ministers have announced a wave of measures in response to The Sun on Sunday’s Beat the Blades campaign.
Tory MP Philip Davies warned: “These figures show that if David Gauke presses ahead with his idiotic plan to stop people being sent to prison for less than six months, thousands of perpetrators of knife crime will escape prison and continue to be on the streets putting people at risk.
“How that will cut crime, Lord only knows. The Prime Minister needs to step in and block this stupid proposal now.”
More than 13,000 sentences of six months or less have been handed out by the courts for possession of blades in the past decade.
Police stats reveal more knives were used in killings, robberies and assaults, as the homicide rate soared 14 percent from 649 to 739 in 2018.
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In the year to September, killings involving knives rose 10 per cent to 276, a fourth consecutive annual increase Knife homicides, which includes murder and manslaughter, accounted for nearly four in 10 deaths.
A senior Whitehall source insisted Mr Gauke’s plan was not aimed at letting knife-wielding criminals walk free.
He said: “We don’t believe it will apply to serious crime but we have to consider the rehabilitation of minor offenders.”
Blitz blast for critics
A minister has blasted human rights campaigners who claim the crackdown on blades will criminalise teenagers.
A group of MPs and peers warned kids could end up with a record if they breach new knife crime prevention orders.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said: “We know that some children as young as 12 are habitually carrying knives and these new civil orders will help reverse this.”
Reuters Justice Secretary David Gauke vows to change the law if judges fail to scrap sentences under six months
PA:Press Association Tory MP Philip Davies said ‘thousands of perpetrators of knife crime will escape prison’ if these plans are approved
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