Monday, 19 March 2012

Staying soft on knife crime

An article in the the West Australian this weekend covered a story that the Labour government were to get tough on knife crime.

Well, this is a good thing and it's about time somebody did get tough on it, I thought upon reading the headline. But reading the article made me feel that the governments idea of a tough policy far differs from mine.

The governments tough stance would mean that anybody found with a knife will be given a fine of "up to $48,000 and a prison sentence of up to four years". For prohibited knives, such as flick-knives, the possible sentence is increased to $72,000 and up to six years in prison.

In my opinion, this tough stance is nowhere near tough enough.

Part of the problem I have with this sentence is the use of the phrase "up to". I've long been wary of this phrase, and as time rolls on, I feel that many others are too. In this case, I fully expect that "up to four years in prison" will actually mean "around six months prison if you get a judge on a really bad day and admitted your intention of actually using the weapon."

As for the fine element, this is often pointless as the person who committed the crime will not have the money to cover both the fine and the legal costs so, somewhere down the line, a different section of government will either declare the person bankrupt, in which case the fine will be written off, or allow the guilty to seek some form of legal aid which would mean that the fine would be reimbursed through the tax system. Ultimately that means that the citizens that the guilty party has threatened end up paying for it.

So what do I consider to be tough punishment?

It is my opinion that if a person leaves their house with a knife, or any weapon for that matter, then they have already made the decision that they will, when they see fit, use said weapon against another person. If they were to do so, the crime would be treated either as murder, or as manslaughter. There is, as is often the case in legal terms, a thin line between these two definitions and it will usually centre around whether or not the crime is premeditated.

As we have already established, the knife carrier, having left their house with a weapon must have the intention of using it. Therefore, I would like to see the sentence increased to that of murder. Obviously, if the perpetrator is caught before the weapon is used, the crime of murder would be victimless, but I feel that a ruling of attempted murder would not be unfair and, if nothing else, would serve far more as a deterrent than both the current and the proposed sentences.

Knife crime is a horrible plague of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that has taken hold of suburban areas of many of the worlds cities. Only by getting truly tough on this sort of crime will we ever put stop to the
damage and the misery that results from these crimes.

Do you have an opinion on this? If so, why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page.