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Minister considers longer jail terms for knife crime

By Deborah McAleese

Published 05/07/2016

Concerned: Justice Minister Claire Sugden is worried by rise in killings
Concerned: Justice Minister Claire Sugden is worried by rise in killings

The Justice Minister could introduce tougher knife crime sentences after the number of murders involving stabbings doubled within a year.

Claire Sugden told the Assembly that during the past year there had been eight killings that involved knives or sharp instruments. There were just three the previous year.

The minister said that while current knife crime penalties were stringent, she would think about making them even tougher in a bid to reverse the rise.

Ms Sugden accepted that blade offences were at their lowest since 2007 and down almost 15% on the previous year, but she was still concerned by the rise in knife murders.

"I remain open to considering any additional proposals which may strengthen our ability to reduce incidences of knife crime," the minister explained.

She added that earlier this year, her predecessor, David Ford, had made changes to the law to make it possible for an offence under section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act (inflicting bodily injury, with or without weapon) to be referred to the Court of Appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions if he considered the sentence imposed in a particular case to be unduly lenient.

Her comments came as a mother whose son was stabbed 200 times after a house party last year criticised a minimum 12-year jail term handed down yesterday to his killer.

Drea Neil, whose son Kyle was murdered in a frenzied knife attack by Wesley Harry Vance (28), said she was "disappointed" by the punishment and was exploring appeal options.

Last month, 24-year-old Gerard Quinn was killed in Londonderry by a single stab wound to the throat in another high-profile knife crime. A 16-year-old has been charged with murder.

In November, a teenager was left fighting for his life after being stabbed in west Belfast.

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