Jail sentences doubled for carrying a knife
Jail sentences for carrying a knife are to be doubled under a major crackdown on Ulster's knife crime, it will be announced today.
Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins has warned that anyone caught with a blade now faces up to four years behind bars.
The new measures were welcomed by the parents of 15- year-old schoolboy Thomas Devlin, who was stabbed to death close to his north Belfast home on his way back from buying sweets with friends in August 2005.
The teenager's mother, Penny, said: "The measures are part of what we would see as a programme of measures to tackle knife crime. They were introduced in the rest of the UK some months ago and we could not understand why they were not introduced here.
"We welcome the fact they have now been introduced but they do not deal with the people intent on going out and killing someone, like they did to Thomas."
As part of the tough new proposals the Government is also drawing up a new offensive weapons list that will include Samurai swords.
In addition, the authorities are examining how to develop a knife licensing scheme to regulate the sale of knives.
Mr Goggins said: "Those who break the law by carrying knives and offensive weapons will face tougher penalties. Public protection is the Government's top priority and I will be bringing forward legislation to double sentences available to the courts."
He added: " Maximum penalties for carrying knives and their illegal manufacture and sale will increase to four years imprisonment. Penalties for the possession of offensive weapons will also increase in the powers I am announcing today."