Weekly Column

Offences against the person

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There can be no crime crueller, more offensive, than a direct attack on a person. The Nation is revolted at the apparent acid attack on a young mother and her two children in Clapham. It seems the attacker was a convicted sex offender, whose application for asylum was refused on two occasions, but allowed on the third. What on earth is going on here, Home Secretary? This vile individual should never have been allowed into this country in the first place. Asylum for sex offenders and acid throwers brings the whole system into disrepute. We seem to be falling over backwards to protect people from violence in their home country- but on some occasions such as this- at a heavy price to law and order on our streets.

Knife crime is the same. At present possession of any knife in a public place, without a good reason, gets a warning on first offence and a six month sentence for any second offence. Let’s have mandatory 12 months’ hard labour in a disused military base somewhere or another for anyone found in possession of an illegal knife or handgun. Ten years or more if they use it. The vicious hooligans who think knife wielding makes them look big might think twice if they realised the consequences of carrying these atrocious Zombie knives. If you carry a weapon then we have to presume you would be ready to use it. You must pay a proportionate price including a strong element of deterrence. Let’s make these people shudder at the thought of what might befall them if they’re caught with knife or handgun- and let’s make sure this acid attacker is thrown out without any further ado to return to wherever he came from.

I was deeply saddened to hear of the resignation of one of MP colleagues for fear of being killed having suffered an arson attack on his constituency office. I was the target of protesters accusing me of all kinds of vile crimes outside a dinner I attended in London last week. MPs are routinely wearing stab vests and employing bodyguards. This is all wrong. MPs must be allowed to go about their business, whether or not it is popular, without any kind of fear for their own and their staff’s personal safety.

It's not just about illegal weapons, though. Many domestic crimes are committed using knives picked up at the scene of the murder. That’s what happened at the brutal murder of 17 year old Ellie Gould which shocked Calne, as did the relatively lenient sentence on her murderer. It was reduced because he was 17 at the time of the murder (albeit 18 by the time of his conviction) and because he used a kitchen knife picked up at the scene. That was said (wrongly) to have reduced pre-meditation thereby reducing the sentence. I am glad to have worked with Ellie’s parents to try to achieve a change in various aspects of the sentencing regime.

I was brought up in Dunblane, where my Father had been chaplain to the primary school, and my Mother was much involved in the counselling of the bereaved parents after the 1996 massacre in the school’s gym. The murderer was using perfectly legally held guns from the shooting club where he was a registered member. So banning illegal weapons would not have prevented it. Not has the knee-jerk abolition of sporting handguns used, for example, in the Olympics, reduced the illegal guns in private hands today (estimated at around 1 million). Banning target shooting may have made us feel that we ‘had sone something’ after the tragedy of Dunblane. It may have assuaged our grief and our consciences, but it has not reduced the use of illegal handguns which is as prevalent today as it was at the time of the shooting.

People- especially youngsters -have to be made fully aware of the consequences of weapons. Schools have a vital part to play in educating youngsters about the consequences of carrying knives to look big to their friends. That has consequences for those friends as well as obvious consequences

for their victims. But they must also realise the consequences for themselves, which must be brutally harsh and incapable of appeal. These wicked and foolish people must feel the full force of the law; and thoroughly unpleasant it should be.

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James Gray
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Published Date
February 2, 2024