No plans to jail first-time knife offenders despite desperate pleas of Nottingham attack victim's family

25 January 2024, 09:03 | Updated: 25 January 2024, 09:05

'Why have we spent years not nailing knife crime?' Nick Ferrari asks Crime and Policing Minister

By Jenny Medlicott

Policing minister Chris Philp has ruled out the possibility of jailing first-time knife offenders despite pleas from the family of a Nottingham attack victim.

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The parents of Grace O’Malley-Kumar, who died aged 19 in a knife attack in Nottingham last year, have called on the government to introduce new laws to put away first-time knife offenders.

Policing minister Chris Philp, however, has ruled out the possibility.

Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Mr Philp said he had “sympathy” for their campaign but that he thinks the current law “gets the balance right”.

He said: “It’s already the case that if you are caught for a second time carrying a knife there is already a mandatory six-month minimum prison sentence, which is right for exactly the reasons she says.

“There is no excuse for carrying a knife in public.”

When asked if the law could be changed to send first-time offenders away too, Mr Philp said: “I do have sympathy for it but, as I say, the law currently has the mandatory sentence for the second possession offence. Which I think just about gets the balance right.

“What we need to do is catch more people, which is why the increase in hot spot patrolling from April is so important and things like stop and search and the technology that I mentioned in the future.

“It’s not just about the sentence it’s about the chances of getting caught.”

Read more: Home Secretary defends Govt record on 'zombie knives' as Labour sets out £100m plan to tackle knife crime

Read more: 'He was my hero': Brother of Nottingham attack victim says he 'wanted to set the world on fire' after learning of his fate

An example of zombie knives.
An example of zombie knives. Picture: Alamy

Mr Philp said that the government is also currently working on new technology to detect whether individuals are carrying knives on them, which he said could be ready for use in a year.

His comments come as the government faces mounting calls to tighten laws around the use of zombie knives.

Zombie knives were first banned in 2016 but loopholes meant they were still available to sell or possess in many circumstances.

Fresh legislation is set to be introduced in Parliament today, which Home Secretary James Cleverly said seeks to "close that loophole" and make the knives illegal.

It will be the government’s third attempt to crack down on the weapons, although the new rules will not take effect until September.

Grace's killer will be sentenced today.
Grace's killer will be sentenced today. . Picture: Social media

Grace O’Malley-Kumar's parents, Dr Sinead O'Malley and Dr Sanjoy Kumar, said the current state of knife crime is an “epidemic” as they called for a “massive deterrent” to stop people carrying knives.

Grace was killed alongside friend Barnaby Webber, also 19, and school caretaker Ian Coates in an attack in Nottingham last year.

The killer, Valdo Calocane, had a guilty plea of manslaughter accepted on Tuesday on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He is due to be sentenced at Nottingham Crown court today.

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