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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 11:40 GMT
Are tougher penalties for carrying a knife needed?
Collection of knives found in London schools
The families of stabbing victims have called for the government to introduce tougher penalties for carrying a knife.

The parents of Damilola Taylor and Luke Walmsley are backing a campaign for a minimum five-year sentence for carrying a knife. This would bring it in to line with the current sentence for carrying a gun.

The charity, Victims of Crime Trust, say there is a child killed in a knife attack every two weeks and there are three times the number of fatal stabbings to gun deaths.

Are tougher penalties for carrying a knife needed? Should the sentence for carrying a knife be the same as for carrying a gun? How can children be protected?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received.

Many people have perfectly legitimate reasons for carrying them
Anthony Thomas, Aberdeen, Scotland
Do we have to endure more unworkable, knee-jerk legislation to impress the tabloids? Of course knives shouldn't be banned, many people have perfectly legitimate reasons for carrying them. We already have legislation on offensive weapons; this should be enforced with more vigour.
Anthony Thomas, Aberdeen, Scotland

For many years I have been a user of the well known Swiss Army knife. They are extremely useful implements, especially when indulging in camping, fishing and other outdoor activities, which I regularly do. Am I now going to face 5 years in jail for carrying something that enables me to partake in what I enjoy doing? If someone used a spoon as an offensive weapon, would we all shout and scream to have spoons banned?!? Actually, knowing this country...we probably would! Oh for a national epidemic of common sense!
Trev, UK

I live in London and I am frightened by the amount of stabbings that occur where I live, scared that one day it might be me. If these tougher penalties will deter people from carrying knives, I'm all for it.
Kris, London, UK

As a Scout Leader we teach the safe use of knives and axes to Scouts. The safe use of these tools is very important, especially when camping as they are often used to build shelters, light fires and prepare food. How can we show young people how to safely use these tools if they or I cannot carry them for legitimate reasons? I agree that misuse of these items should bring stiff penalties, but if you bring the penalties for having a knife in line with those for a gun, how many people are going to carry guns instead of knives as the penalty for having them will be the same?
Lee Barker, Fleetwood

Surely someone should be asking why these children feel the need to use and carry knifes? Until the cause is treated this problem will not go away.
Phill C, Sheffield, UK

Headline politics on the back of a tragedy
Martyn Howie, Aberdeen

I carry a locking knife (part of a multi tool) It is useful for work, or for home, or for in between use. I certainly "intend" to use it, it's a handy tool. Are you seriously suggesting that I, a law abiding citizen, should go to jail just because I have a knife on my person?
Steven Hill, Edinburgh, UK

Coming from a city where knife crime quite common, it is tempting to have a "knee-jerk" reaction when you see the number of young teenagers and even children carrying flick knives.
Graham, Glasgow, Scotland

What about people like myself who do re-enactments? We use swords, pikes, muskets, etc. Will we be another minority to be discriminated against by this government? Think people! If someone wants to hurt someone, there will always be something to hand to do it with.
A. Sweeting, Leicester, UK

Headline politics on the back of a tragedy. Bottles, glasses, sticks, golf clubs, deodorant sprays, lighter fuel, knives. All have legitimate uses, and all can kill. When will society learn that the 'get away with it culture' - where no-one is made to take responsibility for their actions - is responsible and individuals are not punished.
Martyn Howie, Aberdeen

I often carry a little folding pocket-knife with me when I'm out and about in the countryside. It's handy for all sorts of things, from mushroom picking in the autumn to collecting willow wands for my craftwork. It's not a weapon; it's a tool, and I'm damned if the Nanny State will stop me from carrying it.
Steven Forrester, UK

I like the proposals which state that the legal age for buying knives would be raised from 16 to 18. This would create the interesting situation where a 16 year old would be legally allowed to live independently, but not be allowed to purchase the necessary utensils to cook himself a decent meal.
Michael, York, UK

We already have stringent knife laws. Enforce the laws we already have rather than passing yet more draconian legislation.
John, Cardiff, Wales

So you buy a kitchen knife. If it is discovered on your way home, you go to prison for five years! "No one has any excuse for a knife in public".
Mark Adams, Swindon Wilts

Why does anyone need to carry a knife in the first place? I can't think of any "peaceful" reason, so must assume anyone carrying a knife intends to do harm with it. The sooner the law brings this into line with gun carrying the better.
Elizabeth, London, UK

Should we not be trying to control the shops selling them
David, Aberdeen

I understand that some of the knives sold have legitimate uses and are bought by legitimate users, but should we not be trying to control the shops selling them, as well as the age of the people who buy them.
David, Aberdeen

As a victim of a multiple stabbing in 1993, I feel that the victims are not listened to. It is too easy now to carry knives. Most kids carry ordinary kitchen knives. Many carry Martial Arts type knives. It is these that should be outlawed.
Anthony, Sheffield

I would say so, but again it's addressing symptoms, not causes. What kind of environment are children growing up in that makes it acceptable to carry a weapon and stab another child?
Matt, Chelmsford, UK

Carrying ANY offensive weapon should carry a 5 year minimum sentence, be it offensive knife (as opposed to penknife), knuckle-dusters, throwing weapons, guns, air-pistols/rifles, or any other offensive weapon. If someone can't provide a legitimate reason as to why they are walking around with a 2 inch flick-knife, then they should go to jail.
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK

A house brick, if thrown, can be lethal, a broken bottle can...
Dan H, Manchester, UK
This is sheer stupidity. Possession of a knife does not mean intent; all it means is someone has the need for a sharp edge with them, for whatever reason. A house brick, if thrown, can be lethal. A broken bottle can. So can a walking stick. Shall we ban all these too, just to be on the safe side?
Dan H, Manchester, UK

People shouldn't forget about the circumstances. For example, it should be harder to justify carrying a knife in the middle of a city, as opposed to carrying a survival knife on a camping holiday.
Andy Bird, Cheshire, UK

You should be allowed to carry a knife for your own protection. Remove the threat, and we will remove the knives from our pockets.
Bob Hotson, Manchester, Lancs

There are perfectly adequate laws about offensive weapons already available. There are many legitimate reasons for carrying even large knives - many years ago a friend was stopped by police in the early hours with a several large knives in the saddlebag of his bicycle - he was a locum chef and was returning from work with the tools of his trade.
Roger, Stockport, England

This is nonsense. What about when you need a new kitchen knife? Will you be arrested for carrying it home from the shop?
Linda, UK

My younger brother was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack
Anon, Shrewsbury, England
My younger brother was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack over ten years ago, and it has devastated the lives of my family, with the repercussions still being felt. We cannot ban knives, that is an unrealistic proposition given that they are implements that we all use legitimately everyday. However, to treat the carrying of a knife the same as that of carrying a gun is a realistic way forward. Some might argue that this might unfairly victimise people like builders, electricians, etc, but it must be asked how many of these carry sharp implements in a concealed manner, instead of a toolbox or belt? This epidemic requires a zero-tolerance, uncompromising approach. In the end, if you are carrying a concealed weapon you intend to use it. In that case, you deserve to feel the full weight of the law.
Anon, Shrewsbury, England

I like carrying a knife and no legislation will stop me doing so. Whether it be a penknife or a folding knife I always have something handy when working on computer installations or doing outdoor sports. I think most stabbings are carried out with cheap knives designed for kitchen use or imported cheap nasty looking things not the quality gear I use. So they should look more closely at that end of the market
Nige Webb, Germany

Ban guns and they'll start carrying knives. Ban knives and they'll start carrying screwdrivers. Ban screwdrivers and they'll start carrying something else. How about tackling the causes rather than tinkering around with the symptoms - just for a change.
Peter, Bristol, UK

Knives are for cutting things, guns are for killing things, the two are not comparable
Will Hall, London, UK
This is a typical knee-jerk reaction from people who are missing the point. Education will have a far more profound effect on people than locking them up. Are they going to jail every chef, cook and butcher? Am I going to jail for my kitchen knife? Their proposal is nonsense - knives are for cutting things, guns are for killing things, the two are not comparable.
Will Hall, London, UK

If someone is carrying a knife then they intend to use it or why would they have it. It is a lethal weapon the same as a gun, it will be used to scare or harm the same as a gun.
Steve, London England

A very sweeping and presumptuous statement from Steve, London England. Why should you take for granted that because I have a single blade locking knife (an essential safety feature, which in itself is used to reinforce arguments of knives being 'offensive') that I am about to attack somebody. The danger is created by the carrier, not by what they are carrying (e.g. a screwdriver - where do you stop?)
Paul B, Oxford, UK

Yet another knee-jerk reaction to a singular failure of the system. Okay so it shouldn't have happened, but it's a single instance. I sympathise, but I don't see the need to change everything because one apple fell off the cart.
N Clark, Romford Essex

Unless somebody is camping in the wild there is absolutely no need for them to be carrying a knife
Rich, UK
Let's face it, unless somebody is camping in the wild there is absolutely no need for them to be carrying a knife. Used correctly they are handy tools, other than that they are nothing more then dangerous, offensive weapons. I think extremely tough penalties should be introduced with zero tolerance to offenders.
Rich, UK

There is no one in this country that could justify in anyway the need to carry a knife in public. The fact that the pathetic punishment laws in this country does in fact mean you are punished more strongly for illegal parking just shows how rubbish law and order is. As one of the leaders in so called "civilised society" this country should be ashamed.
Chris Hewitt, Nottingham

Increase the penalty for carrying a gun to 10 years, and for carrying a knife to 5 years
Chris Q, Bradford England
Carrying a knife should have a tougher penalty, but it should not be as high as that for carrying a gun, where the danger to bystanders is greater. Increase the penalty for carrying a gun to 10 years, and for carrying a knife to 5 years.
Chris Q, Bradford England

Carrying a knife with intent should certainly carry a stiffer sentence; however the law must be very carefully worded and equally carefully enforced. I carry a penknife on my key ring (and mainly use it to peel fruit). The biggest blade is less than 3", yet could still kill if it pierced the heart or an artery. As the law stands 3.1" fruit knife carriers could be facing jail, while those carrying 2.9" flick knives walk free.
Peter, Nottingham

A crack down is needed. Those that carry knives have the intent to use them, charge them with it and lock them up before they kill someone.
Richard Hedley, Solihull

This is a stupid, reactionary debate
Gary, Berkshire, England
Banning knives completely is stupid; there are so many necessary uses. I have a motorbike and regularly have to remove pieces of glass and the like from my tyres using a knife! Then there are people who use them for fishing. And a screwdriver can do as much damage as a knife! This is a stupid, reactionary debate.
Gary, Berkshire, England

Anniversary of schoolboy stabbing
04 Nov 04 |  Lincolnshire


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