A judge has proposed a nationwide programme to file down the points of kitchen knives as a solution to the country’s soaring knife crime epidemic.
Last week in his valedictory address, retiring Luton Crown Court Judge Nic Madge spoke of his concern that carrying a knife had become routine in some circles and called on the Government to ban the sale of large pointed kitchen knives.
Latest figures show stabbing deaths among teenagers and young adults have reached the highest level for eight years, and knife crime overall rose 22 per cent in 2017.
In the past two months, he said, there have been 77 knife-related incidents in Bedfordshire, including three killings.
Judge Madge told the assembled judges, barristers and court staff: “These offences often seem motiveless – one boy was stabbed because he had an argument a couple of years before at his junior school.”
He said laws designed to reduce the availability of weapons to young would-be offenders had had “almost no effect”, since the vast majority had merely taken knives from a cutlery drawer.
He said: “A few of the blades carried by youths are so called ‘Rambo knives’ or samurai swords. They though are a very small minority.
“The reason why these measures have little effect is that the vast majority of knives carried by youths are ordinary kitchen knives. Every kitchen contains lethal knives which are potential murder weapons.
“Accordingly, it is very easy for any youth who wants to obtain a knife to take it from the kitchen drawer in his home or in the home of one of his friends.”
As a result – said the judge – the most common knife a youth will take out is eight to ten inches, long and pointed, from his mother’s cutlery tray.
He asked: “But why we do need eight-inch or ten-inch kitchen knives with points?
“Butchers and fishmongers do, but how often, if at all, does a domestic chef use the point of an eight-inch or ten-inch knife? Rarely, if at all.”
“Acknowledging that any blade could cause injury, the judge pointed out “slash wounds are rarely fatal.”
So, he said: “I would urge all those with any role in relation to knives – manufacturers, shops, the police, local authorities, the government – to consider preventing the sale of long pointed knives, except in rare, defined, circumstances, and replacing such knives with rounded ends.
“It might even be that the police could organise a programme whereby the owners of kitchen knives, which have been properly and lawfully bought for culinary purposes, could be taken somewhere to be modified, with the points being ground down into rounded ends,” he said.
Office for National statistics figures published in February revealed 215 fatal stabbings had been recorded by police in the 12 months to March 2017.
This was on par with the previous year’s 212 stabbing deaths but a marked increase on the 186 in the year to March 2015.
The latest figures show ten 16 or 17 year olds lost their lives in the year to March 2017, as well as 51 people aged between 18 and 24. The combined total is the highest since 2008/9.
In the first 100 days of 2018, 53 people were killed in the capital alone, many of them victims of knife crime.
New tougher sentencing guidelines for knife crime were introduced in March, with gang membership or carrying a concealed weapon both identified as aggravating factors which can increase a jail term handed down for a knife offence.
The Sentencing council said the reforms were intended to “reflect Parliament’s concern about the social problem of offenders carrying knives.”