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Knife crime soars by 8pc despite Minister's sword ban and net campaign

KNIFE crime rose by 8pc in the past year as blades continue to be used to intimidate, harm and kill victims throughout the country.

New figures show that the number of violent offences involving the use of knives increased from 1,170 in 2008 to 1,264 last year, the highest total in seven years.

The use of knives became more widespread despite a concerted campaign to curb the carrying of knives by young people.

Last year, 19 people died in knife-related murders, six of them in Dublin.



Prison

The Herald has launched the Bin The Blade campaign to highlight the dangers of knife crime, and the initiative has been backed by Taoiseach Brian Cowen and broadcaster Joe Duffy, among others.

The Central Statistics Office has now revealed that the number of robberies from establishments or institutions involving threats with knives soared by 34pc from 372 to 451 last year.

Robberies from individuals jumped by 10pc, from 311 to 343. Assaults with knives causing harm increased from 336 to 341. The number of aggravated burglaries using knives fell from 131 to 108. The increase came amid a crackdown on the use of blades.

Last year, the maximum prison sentence for carrying a knife with intent was increased to five years. Greater powers of stop and search were given to the gardai. Certain types of military blades and knives have been banned outright.

Central Criminal Court Judge Barry White has said he was "strongly of the view that deterrent sentences are necessary in the hope that they reduce the occurrence of stabbings".

"Life in certain areas seems to have become very cheap, if not reduced to the level where there is no value placed on life," he said, as he sentenced Robert Devine to 10 years in jail for manslaughter with a knife.

A Government-backed How Big Do You Feel campaign was launched last February by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy.

It was aimed at informing and educating young people about the dangers of carrying knives and eventually reducing the number of incidents of knife crime. It formally ended last weekend.

The campaign targeted young males with messages delivered through role models in the sporting and media worlds and incorporates a series of local roadshows as well as a dedicated website and involvement in social networking sites such as bebo.

The import and sale of samurai swords have also been banned, though exemptions are made for collectors and martial arts enthusiasts.

The campaign had the support of the GAA, the FAI, the IRFU and other sporting bodies.

aokeeffe@herald.ie


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