17 November 2006

Second amnesty in knife crackdown


New laws to tackle knife crime as well as a second amnesty have been announced by the government.

The Violent Crime Reduction Act makes it illegal to sell knifes to anyone under 18 and introduces a new offence of using someone to mind a weapon.

The knife amnesty will begin on 20 November. Almost 900 items were handed in during the first amnesty.

Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson said the government was determined to "confront knife crime".

"It is important that it is made more difficult to purchase knives in Northern Ireland and this law will also introduce other measures such as making it illegal to use someone to mind a weapon," he said.

"Almost 900 potentially lethal items were removed from the streets of Northern Ireland during the first amnesty and I would again call on everyone to use this opportunity to dispose of any knives in a secure and safe way.

"The government, in partnership with the PSNI and Policing Board will continue to confront the culture of carrying knives in Northern Ireland."

In June, police said that 886 knives were handed in during a three-week amnesty which also saw a 30% drop in incidents of knife crime.

The Violent Crime Reduction Act received Royal Assent on 8 November.

For Northern Ireland, the act made new provisions on weapons including:

--Raising the age at which knives or items with blades or points can be purchased from 16 to 18 years of age and crossbows from 17 to 18 years of age

--Establishing a new offence of using someone to mind a weapon

--Reducing the threshold for a constable to exercise his power of entry and search of a school and person on school premises for weapons

--Extends current law on minimum sentences (five years for adults and three years for 16-18 year-olds) in an additional series of offences involving firearms possession and use

--Amends firearms law to tackle misuse of imitation firearms by making it an offence to manufacture, import or sell imitation firearms.

The government is planning for the commencement of these new powers.

Ulster Unionist assembly member Ken Robinson said the positioning of repositories for knives being surrendered "must be centrally located in places where young people, in particular, go".

"They must not be in out of the way, inaccessible places such as council civic amenity sites," he said.

"Better locations with more thought going into positioning will lead to more knives being taken out of circulation."

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