Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 16:56 UK

Hospital visits 'a soft option'

Knives seized by police
Jack said those who carried knives had thought about stabbing someone
The government has been accused of ditching plans, reported at the weekend, to make people caught carrying knives visit stabbing victims in hospital to show them the potential consequences.

Speaking before the home secretary denied such plans had existed in the first place, one victim told BBC News such visits would not be a punishment and there should be no second chances.

Jack Hancock, from Wirral, was stabbed in the chest almost two years ago while at university.

The 22-year-old was initially critically ill and then in and out of hospital for three months, before eventually having to undergo a heart bypass operation.

He believes a hospital visit from a potential offender might be too much for a victim and their family to cope with.

"When I woke up in hospital I was unaware of everything that had happened since I'd been stabbed," he said.

"I didn't know how ill I'd been and what my family had been through.

"The police had sent for my parents in the middle of the night and taken them to the hospital and they didn't know if I was going to make it."

If they had longer sentences for people carrying knives - just carrying them - a couple of years or something, they wouldn't do it
Garry, jailed for attempted murder

On the day he was attacked, Jack had been organising a freshers' event at a bar in Stockton-on-Tees for Durham University and his attacker had been turned away.

When Jack tried to talk to him, he was stabbed.

His heart was damaged, his lung collapsed and he lost pints of blood.

He said he had not been able to grasp the enormity of his injuries and the repercussions on his life, let alone explain them to someone else.

He said it would be "too raw" for a victim and their family to see a knife carrier so soon after an attack.

"It may offer the best shock value, but it wouldn't be best for me in terms of my recovery. And how do we know how much good it would actually do?

"Lots of these people who carry knives are in a type of gang culture. They've probably seen it all before.

"They will have seen people stabbed or even know someone who died. So why would seeing someone who has no emotional link with them jolt them out of that mindset?"

Jack said the threat of knife crime should be taken much more seriously.

'Softer attitude'

"I think the only real way to stop knife crime is to make examples of people caught carrying them - it's too late after they've stabbed someone.

"This idea of a hospital visit is a let-off. They only need to use the knife once to kill.

"If someone has put a knife in their pocket, they have thought about stabbing someone, it's that simple - there can be no second chances."

He added: "I didn't get a second chance, my injuries and the impact on my life can never be taken back."

I don't see any other place for them at the moment but prison. Then they might learn
Jack Hancock, stabbing victim
Despite successful treatment, Jack must have regular hospital check-ups and will be on medication for the rest of his life.

His attacker was given a seven-year prison sentence.

The trainee accountant said in most cases there seemed to be a softer attitude to knife crime than guns.

"What's the difference between a knife and a gun. Guns are seen as much worse but a knife can do exactly the same thing," he said.

"I don't agree with this stuff about carrying for protection or because they were part of the wrong crowd.

"My friends were stabbed in London. One was killed. I didn't start carrying a knife. Even after I was stabbed it never crossed my mind.

"You need a mandatory prison sentence as a deterrent."

He agreed with Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that there did need to be new ideas and a fresh approach to the problem of knife crime, but said hospital visits were not the answer.

"This idea of a hospital visit is a slap on the wrist not a real punishment. What normal people would be appalled by, [knife-carriers] could just roll their eyes at unimpressed.

"They don't follow rules and they don't live their lives within normal boundaries. I don't see any other place for them at the moment but prison. Then they might learn."

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