Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Sylvia Hermon: Wants local figures for knife amnesty

Disappointing response to knife amnesty

320 blades collected in first week

320 blades collected in first week

BY JONATHAN McCAMBRIDGE

CRIME CORRESPONDENT



ONLY 320 lethal blades were handed in across Northern Ireland during the first week of a knife amnesty, it can be revealed today.

However, the Criminal Justice Minister has ruled out extending the amnesty to five weeks to bring it into line with the rest of the UK.

There was concern today that the location of some of the disposal bins in council headquarters may have limited the number of knives which were handed over.

It is understood that in some council areas there have been only several dozen knives deposited in the amnesty which finished this week.

Police are set to reveal early next week the overall total of knives handed in across the province.

The amnesty was launched by the police and Northern Ireland Office as part of a year long education programme which is aimed at encouraging young men not to carry knives. A hard-hitting advertising campaign is currently running across the province. There are approximately 1,000 knife related crimes in Northern Ireland every year.

Ulster Unionist MP for North Down Lady Sylvia Hermon tabled a written question at Westminster to find out how many knives had been handed in since the commencement of the amnesty.

Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson replied: "The police have estimated that at May 31, a total of 320 items were surrendered since the commencement of the knife amnesty.

"A definitive account will be made shortly after the amnesty finishes and information will be available in the week commencing June 19."

However, the Minister ruled out extending the amnesty past the stated three week date.

He said: "The current knife amnesty will not be extended beyond June 14, but I do plan to re-run the amnesty later in this year.

"This would give an opportunity for the year-long public information campaign to begin to make an impact on changing attitudes."

East Antrim MLA Ken Robinson, who has campaigned for tough sentences for knife crimes, said he was not surprised that the number of weapons being handed over was disappointing.

"One of the main problems it seems was the locations for depositing the knives. In Newtownabbey it was at a council premises which is hard to reach and in Carrickfergus it was on the outskirts of the town.

"I think they should have targeted the town centres. If they are planning to run the amnesty again then they could think about this.

"However, we all know that the knife amnesty is only one step in changing our culture of knife crime. It needs to be backed up with the programme of education and strong laws."

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