ANTI-KNIFE crime campaigners have welcomed plans to introduce tougher penalties for those caught with a weapon on the streets.

Clacton MP Douglas Carswell, who has backed the Gazette’s Lives Not Knives campaign, was one of a number of politicians to support an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill in the Commons this week.

The move would introduce a mandatory minimum prison sentence of six months for a second conviction of unlawfully possessing a knife.

Mr Carswell, who previously called for more stop-and-search powers in Clacton following an increase in knife crime, said: “I back this amendment because I think it is important that those carrying knives know that they are not going to get off lightly.

“There have been a spate of knife crimes committed in Clacton in recent months and it must stop - we need tougher penalties and a better deterrent.

“Mandatory prison sentences will not only deter would-be criminals from carrying knives, but will also ensure that those who flout the law and carry a knife will be taken off the streets."

Figures released by Essex police commissioner Nick Alston last month revealed knife crime in the district rose from 153 to 188 offences last year.

Caroline Shearer, who launched the anti-weapons charity Only Cowards Carry after her son Jay Whiston was stabbed to death outside a house party in 2012, welcomed the move, but called for even tougher measures.
“We welcome automatic sentences for carrying a knife, but this is just a start, carrying a knife once is enough to kill."