5 Jul 2010

Justice Minister announces knife-crime crackdown

10:00 pm on 5 July 2010

The Government has set tougher penalties for carrying a knife as part of a package aimed at reducing crimes involving knives.

Justice Minister Simon Power ordered a report into knife crime in response to concerns expressed by a High Court judge and the Youth Justice Independent Advisory Group.

He has now announced a range of measures, including raising the maximum sentence for possession of an offensive weapon from two to three years. The equivalent sentence in Britain is four years, he says, but three's a sufficient deterrent here.

Mr Power says, however, that people will still be allowed to carry knives if they have a reasonable excuse - which might be the case in the agricultural sector, for instance, or with Scouts.

"We've got to be a bit careful we don't overtip the deterrent end of this equation," he says.

Voluntary accord with retailers sought

Police education officers in schools will provide information about the dangers of carrying knives, and the Ministry of Education will assist schools with search and seizure guidelines.

The Ministry of Justice will also work with retailers, police and local authorities to develop a voluntary accord on restricting the sale of knives to young people.

The Retailers Association says however that, while a voluntary accord sounds laudable, and is preferable to a regulatory model, several factors need to be considered before it can be implemented.

Noting that Britain has a similiar accord, the association's Barry Hellberg says the Government will need to consult with its counterparts there to see how it could be implemented here.