CRACKING down on knife-wielding criminals by sending them straight to jail is not the most effective way to tackle the issue, Nick Clegg said.
It was reported today that the Deputy Prime Minister and senior Lib Dems are opposed to plans by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to toughen legislation so that offenders caught with knives more than once are jailed automatically.
The news comes in the same week that police revealed they are looking to expand the use of knife arches in Gloucestershire to crackdown on the problem.
But speaking on a visit to his visit to Air Balloon pub today, the Lib Dem leader said he was keen to “avoid mistakes” where “tough sounding gimmicks” didn’t actually work.
He said: “I think the debate we are having is a totally normal Whitehall debate about trying to avoid the mistakes of the past where tough sounding sentencing gimmicks were announced but they didn’t actually bring knife crime down.
“I don’t want to see youngsters go to prison for a few weeks and come out as hardened criminals committing even worse knife crime.
“I do want to see judges have the freedom to impose tough sentences to suit the individual circumstances of the crime. I want to do what works to keep people safe.”
The Citizen reported that two pupils in the city had been excluded recently after being caught with a knife in school. The revelations came after teacher Ann Maguire was fatally stabbed at her school in Leeds this week.
But Mr Clegg said he was keen to avoid a “revolving door” of crime where people go to prison for a few weeks and then come out and commit another offence.
“I have always advocated that you have got to make sure that you change offenders’ behaviour and you have got to allow for their rehabilitation so that people who get in trouble today don’t become the serial criminals of the future,” he said.
Separately, he said the A417 Missing Link campaign will be taken “very seriously” by the Government after seeing first-hand the problems caused by the notorious stretch of road.
The Deputy PM paid a visit to the Air Balloon pub in Birdlip just days after the Highways Agency announced the problem stretch has made it on to a list of roads in the South West earmarked for improvement.
He insisted the £255million bid to build the proposed A417 Loop will get a fair hearing. He said: “I don’t come brandishing a magic wand. The sums involved are very significant and money is tight as we all know. But I can certainly see for myself what a major issue this is and I think it deserves to be looked at very seriously, as it will be.”