A CALL by Hackney council for tougher penalties for gang criminals has been criticised by Liberal Democrats.
The Labour regime told a parliamentary select committee into youth crime that jail should be mandatory for all knife offenders convicted a second time. Penalties did “not take sufficient account” of the risk from knife-carriers.
Hackney claimed that young gang members thought themselves “untouchable” thanks to Crown Prosecution Service caution in pressing charges.
“The imposition of mandatory prison sentences limits a judge’s discretion just when it is most needed.
“It’s a response to public anxiety.”
Rather than solving the problem, said Jacobson, it was likely to make it worse.
The council said that a specialist anti-gangs unit set up with police, probation, benefits and youth staff had reduced crime: gun offences had been cut by 50 per cent since 2009 and the number of knife and serious youth violence cases had fallen.
Hackney Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden, who represents Hackney Central ward, added: “By working with all partners, Hackney has led the way in successfully reducing gang violence and supporting gang members who want to leave gangs.
“The evidence submitted to the select committee was based on the experience of professionals and outlined the need for strong enforcement alongside effective diversion and prevention measures.”
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary in the Tory-LibDem coalition government, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Nick de Bois, MP (Conservative) for Enfield North, have been demanding mandatory prison sentences for second knife-offence convictions.
This week the House of Commons supported de Bois’s amendments to the Criminal Courts and Justice Bill. LibDems opposed the change so Conservative ministers abstained from the vote. Hackney council, however, will be hoping the House of Lords approves the change.
David Altheer 200614
* Picture at top: Metropolitan Police in an operation in Mare Street, Hackney
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