Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Sunday, 1 June 2008 12:36 UK

Tory call to enforce knife laws

Knives seized by police during Operation Blunt 2
Mr Gove said police should have more discretion on stop-and-search

A spate of knife attacks on teenagers will not be stopped by new legislation, the Conservatives have said.

Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, argued it was more important that "existing laws are enforced as effectively as possible".

But Justice Secretary Jack Straw said this was already happening, with the number of offenders jailed for possessing blades trebling since 1997.

So far in 2008 14 London teenagers have been killed, 11 of them in stabbings.

During 2007, 26 teenagers were murdered in the city.

But according to the British Crime Survey (BCS), overall violent crime has decreased by 41% since a peak in 1995.

In a two-week Met Police crackdown, 200 blades have been seized and 210 people have been arrested.

'Deeper and profounder'

Mr Gove told the BBC that "serious steps" needed to be taken to tackle knife crime, but that new laws were not the answer.

Instead, he suggested that police officers should be given greater discretion over using stop-and-search powers.

Often the root of that problem lies in the lack of effective authority right from the very beginning in the home
Michael Gove
Shadow Schools Secretary

Black members of the Metropolitan Police Authority supported this change, he said, because they understood the issue of violent crime within urban communities.

He added that society needed to look "at the deeper and profounder reasons why children feel the need to carry knives, why this crime is occurring in the first place".

Mr Gove added: "Often the root of that problem lies in the lack of effective authority right from the very beginning in the home."

Mr Straw insisted that the government was already taking a tougher approach.

He said that since Labour came to power, the number of offenders jailed for possessing a knife or a bladed instrument had risen from 300 a year to over a thousand.

When a knife was used in a crime, "offenders are almost always put into custody immediately", he added.

New measures are being used by police to search for knives using hand-held and walk-through metal detectors.




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