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Crime: Guns and Knives

Volume 691: debated on Monday 23 April 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What urgent action they propose to take to tackle the causes of gun and knife crimes; and when they intend to take such action. [HL2830]

We have been undertaking a programme of work on gun and knife crime and gangs issues for some time. On 12 February this year we doubled the maximum sentence for possession of a knife in a public place or school without good reason from two to four years; from 6 April we are implementing a new offence of using someone to mind a weapon; and in May we are giving school staff powers to search pupils for weapons. We will be raising the age at which someone can purchase a knife from 16 to 18 and banning the sale, manufacture and importation of realistic imitation firearms later this year. And we are also clarifying the law to ensure that the minimum sentence for unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm of five years' imprisonment applies to 18 to 20 year-olds as well as to people aged 21 or over.

In March this year we also began a consultation on banning samurai swords and other weapons due to their use in violent crime. Last year, we held a five-week national knife amnesty which resulted in around 90,000 knives and other items being handed in. Alongside the amnesty, police forces undertook robust enforcement action together with educating young people to challenge the knife-carrying mindset.

We are also supporting community work on gun and knife crime. Since May 2004, the Connected Fund has provided grants for small community groups. So far, the fund has supported 300 local groups working on gun crime, knife crime and gangs issues, and allocated about £1.25 million. A further round of funding focusing specifically on gangs issues is under way.

As announced at the Prime Minister's summit on 22 February, our ongoing work will focus on three areas:

Policing—ensuring the police are equipped to tackle gun crime and gangs;

Powers—giving the police and courts the powers to deal with offenders; and

Prevention—empowering communities to take action themselves to prevent gun crime and gang culture, and offering support to parents to challenge their children's behaviour.

The plan includes a review of the relevant legislation on guns, gangs and knives, which will include looking at the sentencing of juveniles.

All our work in this area is being driven forward by the Home Secretary's round table group on guns, gangs and knives which draws its membership from the police, government departments and community organisations.