JUSTICE Secretary Kenneth Clarke has thrown his weight behind the Mail’s Safer Burton campaign.
The senior cabinet member told the House of Commons he wished the people of Burton every success in trying to ‘reduce the scourge of knife crime’.
Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, who raised the issue during a debate after pledging his own support for the campaign, asked the Lord Chancellor what steps he was taking to increase prison tariffs for people sentenced for carrying knives.
Mr Clarke told the House: “Sentencing guidelines provide that the starting point for an adult convicted of knife possession is a custodial sentence.
“Where immediate custody is given, the average sentence length increased between June 2010 and June 2011.
“We are creating new offences so that those who carry a knife in a public place or school, and go on to threaten and cause immediate risk of serious physical harm to another, can expect to face at least a minimum custodial sentence.”
Mr Griffiths took a copy of the Mail, with a front page story relating to a serious knife incident in Burton, to brandish in the Chamber as an example when asking Mr Clarke for his support.
Following Mr Clarke’s comments, the MP for Burton said: “Constituents in Burton will applaud the statements made about sentences for the type of crime that is covered on this front page of the Burton Mail, in which a young man was frogmarched to a cash point and forced to hand over money at knifepoint.
“They want to see that kind of tough sentencing as a deterrent.
“Will the Secretary of State back the Mail’s campaign to help us make Burton a knife-free zone and to prevent these kinds of activities happening again?”
Mr Clarke replied: “If the newspaper report is correct, then whoever carried out that crime committed quite a number of criminal offences, most of which carry very serious penalties, so I hope that the local courts deal with it with appropriate seriousness, having obviously considered all the circumstances.
“We are sending out, we hope, a strong message that we will not tolerate the use of knives.
“Threatening with a knife and putting someone in fear of injury is a very serious matter.
“I wish my honourable friend every success in working with his constituents to try to reduce the scourge of knife crime in Burton.”
‘We need to work together to make things change’
BURTON’S MP has reflected on one of his earliest memories after being elected to Parliament a family grieving over the murder of one of their own.
The tragic killing of 21-year-old Connor Upton (pictured left) happened around a month after Andrew Griffiths won his seat in the 2010 General Election.
“I will never forget one of the first things I was ever faced with when becoming the MP for Burton a heartbroken mother who had just lost her son to the blade of a knife”, said the Tory.
He said it was ‘hard’ to witness the devastation that was caused, not just because a life was lost, but as the lives of Connor’s parents, family and friends had also been ruined as a result of a split-second action.
“I admit to feeling completely helpless, not knowing what I could do to help or prevent it from happening again,” Mr Griffiths said.
“Since then I have regularly messaged Yvonne (Connor’s mother) and have been impressed and inspired by the sheer determination she has shown to do something to prevent any other mother, father or family to ever have to go through what she endured.” Taking inspiration from Mrs Upton, he met on many occasions with Burton Police and with those involved in developing legislation and policy to try to prevent knife crime.
The MP, one of the main figures in the Mail’s Safer Burton campaign, felt so passionate about tackling knife crime he worked with Burton Police to make the town a knife-free zone and raised the issue in Parliament.
He said: “I have got no doubt that Burton Police are committed to eradicating knife crime. I have seen for myself, by going out on a Safer Nights patrol with them, the proactive work they do to tackle this type of crime.
“I raised the work of Yvonne and the Burton Mail in the House of Commons and got the full backing of Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, after explaining the aims of the Safer Burton campaign.
“Everyone, including publicans and owners of clubs in Burton, are trying to do everything they can to make Burton a safer place and I think the Mail’s campaign helps them in this.
We all need to work together as a community to make things change.
“I feel one of the key elements to the campaign is education. Going into local schools and educating young people is the best way to try to ensure that we never see another mum like Yvonne lose her son.
“We also need to send out the message to anybody who thinks about carrying a knife that if they get caught they will end up with a criminal record.
“People will feel safer and more secure in the knowledge that Burton is a knife-free zone and that people are working together to tackle town centre violence.
“People will be able to come to the town and enjoy themselves knowing that they will be safe.
“However, the most important element to Safer Burton is the work of Yvonne and the Mail in ensuring young people fully understand that there is nothing big or clever about carrying or using a knife.”