Call for ‘harsh’ punishments for carrying knives as stabbings toll rises

One of Britain’s most senior police officers has demanded “harsh” sentences for criminals caught carrying knives as the country’s stabbings death toll continues to rise.

Andy Cooke, chief constable of Merseyside Police, said judges needed to get tough on people who end up before the courts for carrying weapons, and urged the Government to unite in tackling the issue of knife crime, “rather than putting an obstacle in the way at every turn”.

His comments come in the wake of a string of fatal stabbings on Britain’s streets which have prompted warnings of a “national emergency”.

On Thursday a teenager who was stabbed in West Kensington became the 17th person killed by a knife in London alone in 2019.

A teenager was stabbed  in Lanfrey Place, West Kensington, London, and later died in hospital
A teenager was stabbed in Lanfrey Place, West Kensington, London, and later died in hospital

Mr Cooke told the Daily Express: “We need harsh sentences for people carrying knives. We need to ensure that those sentences are being carried out.

“I think the sentencing guidelines for knife possession are about right. We just need to make sure that those sentences are actually being carried out.

“We need the judiciary to be sentencing at the higher end of the sentencing that they can achieve on each and every occasion.”

His calls follow a backlash against Chancellor Philip Hammond, who demanded that police shift existing resources into tackling knife crime rather than expect more funding.

Mr Hammond said forces should move officers away from “lower priority” crime and on to knife violence.

His words, which also included a suggestion that public services would get more cash if MPs voted for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, were lambasted by the Police Federation of England and Wales.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The organisation’s national chairman John Apter said: “Children are dying on our streets and he has the audacity to suggest that the police need to prioritise. Let me assure him – this is a priority.

“Across England and Wales, my members are the ones working flat out to prevent more young people being killed.

“They are often the ones on their knees in the street trying desperately to save the lives of these young victims, they are the ones who have to deliver the terrible news to families that their loved one will never be coming home again.

“And they are doing it with almost 22,000 fewer colleagues than when the Conservative Government came to power.”

Police officers in England and Wales.
Police officers in England and Wales.

Mr Hammond insisted that police budgets were rising, and said knife crime was “an immediate problem, you cannot solve it by recruiting and training more officers – that takes time”.

The number of police officers across the 43 forces in England and Wales has fallen by more than 20,000 since 2009 but the Prime Minister has said there is no correlation between the decline and “certain crimes”.

Calling on Mr Hammond to “leave his Westminster bubble” and increase funding, Mr Apter said: “It is an insult to my dedicated and hard-working colleagues, and it shows a shocking lack of awareness or understanding of the reality of the crisis happening right now in towns and cities across the country.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Mr Hammond of being “tin-eared” and “acting like a management consultant”.

It’s an insult to grieving families, to police officers, to the victims and to the public. His comments were ill informed, insulting and misguided. #bbcqt

— John Apter (@PFEW_Chair) March 7, 2019

He said: “The two most senior members of the Government are in total denial about the impact of police cuts. You can’t protect people on the cheap.”

Also on Friday, police announced the death of a 37-year-old man who had been injured in a stabbing in Soho on Sunday, while David Martinez was named as the 26-year-old Spanish man who died after a stabbing in Leyton, east London, on Wednesday.

And Peter Chesney, the father of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney who was knifed in the back in a seemingly motiveless attack in Harold Hill, east London, last Friday, made an emotional appeal for someone “to do the right thing” and help catch her killer.