Belfast Telegraph

846 knife attacks in one year in Northern Ireland

By Deborah McAleese

More than 800 violent attacks across Northern Ireland last year involved a knife or a blade, shock statistics show.

In the most recent attack a man in his 30s was left with serious injuries after being stabbed in the back at a house party in Ballymena in the early hours of Monday morning.

And earlier this month a teenager was left fighting for his life after being stabbed through the heart in west Belfast.

Following a number of vicious stabbings in recent weeks, urgent calls have now been made for a toughening up of Northern Ireland's knife crime laws.

"We are much too soft on knife crime. For the past four years I have been saying we need to sort this out. Too many people are dying or being seriously injured through knife attacks. It's happening in our homes and on our streets at frightening levels," said Ukip's David McNarry.

PSNI statistics show that knives or "sharp instruments" were used in 846 violent crimes, including murder, attempted murder, assault, robbery and rape, over a 12-month period up to the end of September. This amounts to an average of two a day.

Bladed weapons were used in 540 vicious assaults causing grievous or actual bodily harm to victims, according to the statistics.

They were also used in 35% of attempted murders (37), 35% of murders (8) and 20% of robberies (179).

Justice Minister David Ford introduced new knife crime legislation in 2010 as part of his Justice Bill, which included a four year sentence for anyone caught in possession of a knife on school premises or armed with an offensive weapon with intent to commit an offence.

However, in light of the police statistics, Mr McNarry said he wants the minister to bring in automatic jail terms for any adult caught carrying a knife for a second time, similar to legislation introduced in England earlier this year.

"It is monstrous in terms of how these knives are used. They say knife crime is not as bad here as other areas but I believe it is out of control and will keep getting worse unless David Ford toughens up our laws," said Mr McNarry.

Chairman of the justice committee, DUP MLA Alastair Ross, said there are currently a range of offences on the statute book in Northern Ireland for those who carry illegal weapons but said "it is always useful to keep an eye on changes in other jurisdictions". He said while he would be cautious about automatic sentences, particularly without taking into account individual circumstances, "the judiciary should have that option available to them".

Although the police statistics show that from September 2014 to September 2015 knife crime was on the decline from previous years, Policing Board member Jonathan Craig (left) warned that there cannot be any complacency.

"We may not have the same level of knife crime as other parts of the UK but we do not want to become complacent. We need to keep on top of this to ensure it does not become a bigger problem," the DUP MLA said.

Last night the victim of the knife attack in Ballymena was still in hospital. Police said they believed he was stabbed following an altercation during a party in a house in the Argenta Walk area of the town at around 4am.

Chief Inspector Stephen McAuley said the man was taken to hospital with a serious stab wound to his back, but added that the injury was not believed to be life-threatening.

Mr McAuley said that after the stabbing "a number of males" quickly left the property and police are keen to identify them.

Earlier this month an 18-year-old was critically injured in west Belfast when he was stabbed through the heart.

Just a few days earlier a man in his 30s was left in a serious condition after he was stabbed at Hawthorn Street just off the Falls Road.

Last month three men were stabbed at a flat in the Limestone Road area of north Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph


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