A daily newspaper which launched a campaign against knife crime after two tragic deaths on its patch has seen its bid to rid the streets of knife crime take a step forward.
The Shields Gazette launched its Knives Ruin Lives campaign, which calls for automatic jail sentences for anyone caught with a knife, after the murder of a teenager and a 31-year-old local photographer.
Now new guidelines by the Sentencing Guidelines Council have been issued to all magistrates and judges in the UK advising them to jail knife offenders.
It advises that the starting point for an adult caught carrying a knife should be 12 weeks in jail if they don’t own up to the offence and plead guilty in court.
Editor John Szymanski, pictured above right with Northumbria Police inspector Clare Langley, left, and campaigning mum Susanne Hilton, said it was a major boost for the newspaper’s campaign.
He said: “We understand that things do not happen overnight. When we launched our campaign, we knew it would take time to change minds and get what we, and grieving parents like Susanne Hilton, whose son Glen was murdered, believe is right.
“The fact the courts now have stricter guidelines and tougher measures is one step closer for us, and we will keep pushing for new moves until knives disappear from our streets.”
The campaign was sparked by the murders of Glen Corner, killed as he celebrated his 16th birthday and collecting his GCSEs, in August 2006, and Lee Phipps in May 2006, stabbed as he went to take photographs of local snow-capped hills
Glenn’s mother has worked with the Gazette to bring about the change.
She said: “Words cannot describe how Glen’s death has devastated me and my family. It is so important to get the message out there on how dangerous knives can be.
“Jailing those caught in possession of a knife will, hopefully, deter others from carrying knives and, in turn, will potentially save lives.
“The law needed to change, and people should be locked up for carrying a knife without a legitimate reason. It is good news.”
The campaign has also received praise from the town’s MP, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and Home Office minister Vernon Coaker.
Mr Coaker said: “It is campaigns like the Gazette’s that are helping to raise awareness of the issues surrounding knife crime and ways to tackle them.
“Any positive measures that can help to reduce their dangers – and make our streets safer – must be applauded. This is a real achievement for the Gazette, its readers and for South Tyneside.”
Mr Miliband added: “Here in South Shields, we have seen the heartache and devastation that knife crime can cause. I commend the Gazette for their stance in tackling this issue.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “As part of our ongoing drive to tackle knife crime, we have introduced a presumption to prosecute, the maximum sentence for carrying a knife has been doubled to four years, and people who are prosecuted for carrying a knife are now almost three times as likely to go to prison as in 1997 and for a third longer.
“As the Prime Minister Gordon Brown said recently, anyone who uses a knife to threaten or cause fear of violence should be jailed.”