PEOPLE convicted of knife crimes should be given tougher sentences, according to a prospective parliamentary candidate.
Mark Eastwood, the Conservative hopeful for Dewsbury, has backed the Government’s approach to tackle the scourge of knife violence – but his words provoked a strong response from Dewsbury’s Labour MP Paula Sherriff.
Mr Eastwood also wants to see courts hand out stronger sentences to anyone convicted of crime involving knives alongside some of the other measures announced by Prime Minister Theresa May and Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Monday.
Their plans include an extra £100m into law enforcement in the worst-affected areas, getting more police on the front line, setting up Violence Reduction Units, and providing long-term investment for programmes to steer young people away from violent crime or reoffending with a new £200m Youth Endowment Fund.
Other plans include making it harder for criminals to arm themselves through a new Offensive Weapons Bill and making almost £1bn of extra police funding available this year.
“Knife crime is a scourge on our society and here in Dewsbury and the whole of West Yorkshire it has caused pain, misery and anguish for victims and their families,” he said.
“I am pleased the Prime Minister and Home Secretary are working hard together to tackle this major problem with the range of measures they have introduced, particularly trying to stop knife offences before they happen.
“But I would also like to see more emphasis placed on courts to really hit people convicted of knife violence hard. I believe stiffer penalties for those criminals will send out a message to anyone reckless enough to consider carrying out these dangerous crimes.
“Of course, prevention is always better than cure, but for those who will not hesitate to use a knife, the punishments for them must be severe and be a deterrent to reoffending.”
Paula Sherriff blamed Conservative cuts for the crisis and hit out at the Government’s response to the problem.
Miss Sherriff said: “The horror of knife crime has been devastatingly highlighted recently following a spate of knife attacks around the country and here in Dewsbury.
“Official figures show a steep rise in the number of young people, particularly teenagers, needing urgent hospital care for knife wounds in recent years. At least 12 young victims of knife crime attend A&E departments every day, with gaps in NHS data suggesting the real number could be much higher.
“I’m pleased that this issue has now caught the attention of government ministers, but why has it taken a public outcry and police chiefs’ declaring the issue a ‘national emergency’ before it’s been put on the agenda?
“Even then, the Tory knee-jerk response has been to scapegoat those police officers, NHS staff and teachers who potentially fail to spot the warning signs.
“We’re 21,000 police officers down since 2010, yet the Prime Minister has still refused to accept that police cuts are linked to the country’s knife crime epidemic. Our youth and other preventative services have been the victim to savage cuts and the courts system is crippled by an ‘impossible workload’ as the Attorney General warns the Crown Prosecution Service cannot handle more cuts.
“Frankly, it’s the Tory government who’ve failed to spot the warning signs. It is clear to all on the front line that investment is needed if the government is serious about tackling violent crime.”