Fianna Fáil is to publish proposed legislation this week calling for the introduction of a mandatory minimum 12 month sentence for unlawful knife possession.
Figures published by the Irish Examiner yesterday show there was an almost 60% jump in the number of knife murders last year, rising from 12 in 2013 to 19 in 2014.
The figures, provided by the Central Statistics Office, represent the highest number of knife murders since 2009, when 19 people were also killed, and the second highest number in recent history.
Fianna Fáil intends to bring before the Dail proposed amendments which would see a set a one-year minimum custodial sentence for illegally carrying a knife in a public place.
“A sub-culture has developed among sections of our society, where carrying knives has become common place,” said party justice spokesman Niall Collins.
“It is a sub-culture that is destroying lives. Just last year, 19 people were killed with knives, a 60% jump on the previous year.”
The CSO figures also show a trebling in the number of murder threats involving a knife in 2014 and a doubling in carjackings. Aggravated burglaries involving knives have also increased, a trend which has accelerated in the first three months of 2015.
Families of homicide victims called for the introduction of a set of mandatory minimum sentences for unlawful possession of knives.
Advocates for Victims of Homicide told the Irish Examiner they wanted a one-year minimum for the first offence of possession, followed by five years for a second offence and 10 years for a third offence — all without any possibility of early release.
Currently, under the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990, unlawful possession can be punishable in the district court by a fine, and/or a sentence of up to 12 months.
On indictment, in the circuit court, it can attract up to five years in prison and/or a fine.
“Knife crime is a scourge in our country and it needs an unequivocal response,” Mr Collins said.
“The message needs to go out that if you carry a knife illegally in Ireland, you are committing a major crime and it will not be tolerated.
“For that reason, Fianna Fáil will this week introduce the Knife Possession Bill.”
He said the purpose of the legislation was preventative: “Rather than deal with any further increase in the list of people killed with knives, we want to help gardaí take illegal knives out of circulation in the first place.”
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