Families of homicide victims are calling for mandatory sentences for unlawful possession of knives after an almost 60% jump in knife murders last year.
Figures provided to the Irish Examiner show that 19 people were murdered with knives or sharp objects in 2014, compared to 12 in 2013.
This figure represents the highest number of such fatalities since 2009, when there were also 19 deaths, and the joint second-highest in recent history.
Advocates for Victims of Homicide (AdVic) said many young men are “going out armed with knives” and said there was a growing trend in ‘glassing’ attacks in pubs and clubs.
AdVic called for mandatory sentences for unlawful possession of knives, with a first offence attracting a one-year term; a second offence punishable by a minimum five years in prison; and a third offence receiving a minimum 10-year sentence — all without any possibility of early release.
“Legislation needs to be introduced which means that if you are caught with a knife on your person and have no reasonable excuse, you will earn a mandatory sentence,” said AdVic chief executive and criminologist John O’Keeffe.
The figures, provided by the Central Statistics Office, show that in relation to violent knife crime:
In total, there were 3,347 recorded crimes involving knives in 2014. This is down significantly on the peak in 2010 (4,314), but considerably higher than 2004 (2,844).
This is in large part due to fluctuations in the number of people caught in possession of offensive weapons, which went from 780 in 2004 to 1,563 in 2010 and to 1,034 in 2014.
Such offences, in part, are determined by enforcement levels and parallel fluctuations in Garda numbers, which went from 12,000 in 2004, to 14,500 in 2010, to around 12,800 in 2014.
“While less serious crime may be decreasing, serious violent crime shows little sign of abating, particularly in relation to knife and glass attacks,” said Mr O’Keeffe.
He added that many young men were now going out armed with knives or “the new weapon of choice — the pub/club glass”.
He said successive governments had “failed to understand the horror of knife crime”. He called on stores to be restricted in what type of knife they could sell.
A Garda spokesman said an analysis of current knife-related murders suggest the majority are off street and victims know the offender.
“If you carry a knife, you stand a high chance of having that knife used on yourself,” the spokesman said.
In 2009, gardaí launched a national awareness campaign, entitled ‘How Big Do You Feel’, educating young people about knife crime.
The spokesman said it continued the work in its schools programme, which reached 7,000 schools in 2014.
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