All knife thugs will be sent to prison, says Justice Secretary after figures show one in five escape with a cautionMandatory prison sentence for 'aggravated knife crime'
Offenders face a maximum of four years’ imprisonment or a minimum of six months
09:45 GMT, 3 December 2012
Tough stance: Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants prison sentences for knife crimes
Knife-wielding thugs will no longer be able to escape with only a caution, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has vowed.
The Cabinet minister said anyone who uses a knife to threaten others in a public place will be jailed.
Of the 4,207 people arrested for carrying knives this spring, only 951 – 22 per cent – were sent to prison. One in five was let off with a caution.
Today, Mr Grayling will announce mandatory jail for ‘aggravated knife crime’ committed by those aged over 16.
The move will target those who menace others with a ‘bladed or pointed’ weapon in a public place such as a school.
Offenders face a maximum of four years’ imprisonment or a minimum of six months and those aged 16 and 17 will receive a four month detention order.
Ministry of Justice figures also show that only 51 out of the 1,100 juveniles caught with offensive weapons this spring were jailed.
This is half the rate of the year earlier, despite calls for judges to take the crime more seriously.
Ahead of the announcement, Mr Grayling said he had ‘profound misgivings’ about the use of cautions for those carrying blades.
‘If you’re wandering around carrying a knife in a threatening way you will go to jail,’ he told the BBC’s Politics Show.
‘It doesn’t apply if you’re caught bringing a Stanley knife back from B&Q but if you’re found with a knife to the point where the police think that a criminal justice intervention is necessary, I have profound misgivings about that being handled with a caution.’
Jailed for knife: An arrest for aggravated knife crime will read to a minimum jail term of six months (file photo)
Mr Grayling, who has always advocated a tougher stance on justice than his predecessor Ken Clarke, added: ‘I think we use cautions too frequently in this country, particularly in relation to knife crime.’
Before the last election, the Tories vowed to bring in automatic jail sentences for anyone caught carrying a knife.
Let off: Only 22 per cent of arrests this spring led to prison sentences
Tory backbencher Nick de Bois introduced the amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act to make custodial sentences mandatory for knife crime.
Mr Grayling will also announce today that anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent crime will face a mandatory life sentence in jail.
They will be released only when they have served at least two-thirds of their prison sentence.
The sentence for killing someone because they are disabled or transgender will also be doubled to 30 years – in line with hate crime sentences given to those who kill because of race, religion and sexual orientation.
Mr Grayling also revealed he may be forced to support a contentious European ruling to give prisoners the vote when the issue comes before the Commons.
He said he was in a tricky position because, as Lord Chancellor, he is duty-bound to uphold the law.