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Gerry O'Carroll: Why don't all our judges treat knife crime as seriously as Barry White?

IS 10 years enough for taking a human life by stabbing?

This week we saw the tragic sequel to yet another knife- killing play itself out in our courts.

The family of Joseph Cummins stood on the steps of the Criminal Courts of Justice to make a statement after a man was jailed for stabbing their son to death.

His killer, Robert Devine, was originally charged with the murder of the 21-year-old, but the State later accepted a guilty plea to manslaughter.

The judge in the case, Mr Justice Barry White, sentenced Devine to 10 years' imprisonment.

With remission -- this ongoing nonsense of rewarding good behaviour -- he'll serve just over seven years.

Robert Devine has 72 previous convictions and I sincerely doubt this killer will be reformed over that period.

I completely concur with the sentiments of Joseph's distraught parents in their anguished statement after the case.

With justification, his father Joseph Snr said: "Ten years is not enough for knife crime. There are new families here every week, every week there will be someone here in my place. The sentences are just not enough."

The thing is, Mr Justice White appeared to agree. The Minister for Justice and the Cabinet would do well to study his words in this case.

He said that he was "strongly of the view that deterrent sentences are necessary in the hope that they reduce the occurrence of stabbings". But unfortunately, he added, "sufficient of my colleagues do not share my view".

In a devastating comment on our attitudes to knife crime in this country, he continued: "Life in certain areas seems to have become very cheap, if not reduced to the level where there is no value placed on life."

This stark warning from a judge should make us all sit up and take note.

For years I have pointed out that sentences for crimes of manslaughter and murder are woefully inadequate, and are not acting as any deterrent.

The Herald has launched a Bin The Blade campaign to highlight the scourge of knife crime. We have attempted to shine a spotlight and to seek action.

Hardly a week goes by without another family receiving a call from gardai, with devastating news. The victims are almost always young men.

There have been developments on foot of campaigns like the Herald's. Last year, the sentence for carrying a knife with intent was increased to five years. Greater powers of stop and search have been given to the gardai. Certain types of military blades and knives have been banned outright.

Despite all these efforts, knife crime continues to soar.

In light of the comments of Mr Justice Barry White, and the appeal of Joe Cummins' father, I call on Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to initiate a Government-sponsored campaign.

We need something modelled on the hard-hitting road traffic campaign, which showed visceral images of road injuries.

Shocking images of the aftermath of knife crime are needed to bring home to people, particularly young males, the all-too-common result of carrying knives.

Metal detectors -- unfortunately for law-abiding people -- need to be used at venues where young people congregate.

All the proposed changes in the law, and any planned initiative, will ultimately fail, how-ever, unless Mr Justice White's deterrent is put into effect.

The taking of a human life is the most heinous crime and should attract proper punishment. The rates of murder have rocketed in recent years.

Those convicted, including the likes of serial offender Robert Devine, should face a mandatory 25 years for killing someone. That's a deterrent that would force the criminal to think twice.


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