Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 16:41 UK

Review for knife murder sentences

Justice Secretary Jack Straw says he will review the penalty for knife murders

Minimum sentences for knife murders are to be reviewed, Justice Secretary Jack Straw has told the House of Commons.

The move follows controversy over the case of murdered teenager Ben Kinsella, whose parents called for stiffer jail terms for offenders who used knives.

The current knife murder tariff is 15 years. For gun murders it is 30 years.

Mr Straw said he would examine the minimum term "starting points" for people convicted of murders involving knives in England and Wales.

But the Conservatives said the review was little more than a "public relations exercise".

'Appalling crime'

Ben, 16, died after he fled a fight in Islington, north London, in June 2008.

George and Deborah Kinsella discuss the sentences given to their son's killers

Michael Alleyne, 18, Juress Kika, 19, and Jade Braithwaite, 20, all from London, were all given life terms with a minimum 19-year tariff last week.

But Ben's parents, George and Deborah Kinsella, said the government should review sentencing guidelines to enable judges to hand down stiffer sentences.

The murder of Ben was an "appalling crime", Mr Straw said.

He told MPs he recognised there had been "considerable concerns" about the gap in minimum terms.

He added: "In the light of these concerns I intend to review the provisions of schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 with a view to deciding whether to amend it as I can by order.

The government cannot expect to be taken seriously when it is releasing thousands of violent offenders from prison early
Dominic Grieve
Shadow Justice Secretary

"I will of course be consulting the senior judiciary and the Sentencing Guidelines Council and would be very happy to receive wider representations."

Mr Straw had been responding to a question from Labour backbencher David Winnick, who told the Commons that the jail terms handed down to Ben's killers were "not really sufficient".

Dominic Grieve, the shadow justice secretary, said the Conservatives welcomed a review but said what Mr Straw had announced looked like a publicity stunt.

"The government cannot expect to be taken seriously when it is releasing thousands of violent offenders from prison early, because of chronic overcrowding," Mr Grieve said.

The Old Bailey heard that Ben, the brother of EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella, was stabbed 11 times after Braithwaite claimed he had been "disrespected".

On 15 June, George Kinsella told BBC Breakfast: "If you murder someone with a gun, the starting tariff is 30 years. But if you do it with a knife, it's 15 years.

"What's the difference?"

Mrs Kinsella told the programme that she believed knife crime sentencing was "too complacent".



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