Minimum Sentences for Knife Crime

Politicians in the House of Commons have passed a measure to create a minimum sentence for anyone convicted of a second offence of possessing a bladed article in a public place.

Under the proposals detailed in The Guardian, an adult will receive a minimum sentence of 6 months if he is convicted of having a knife in public for a second time. Youths would receive a minimum sentence of a 4 month Detention and Training Order.

Notwithstanding the statistics that show that the average sentence for this offence is already greater than 6 months imprisonment, it is debatable whether this mandatory minimum sentence would act as any more of a deterrent than the existing sentencing guidelines. The starting point for any offender who has used a knife in public to threaten or cause fear is for the case to be sent to the Crown Court. Arguably this is a media-friendly exercise to try and bolster an image of tackling knife crime and “soft sentencing” by the Courts.

At a time when the prison population is already exceeding capacity, due in no small part to the Ministry of justice’s decision to close prisons, is this a further example of short sighted knee-jerk policy? It is one thing to impose a minimum prison sentence, but where will the new prisoners go to?