Campaigners have slammed plans by the prime minister to introduce mandatory five-year sentences for 17-year-olds convicted of possessing a gun as a “knee-jerk” reaction to recent high-profile deaths.
Tony Blair will today (Thursday) consider calls by the police to impose tougher sentences on 17-year-olds at a “gun-summit” following the deaths of three teenage males in London in the past fortnight.
But charities, including Nacro and the Children’s Society, fear that such a move would place a burden on the already overcrowded juvenile estate and increase the risk of re-offending by young people, who could end up mixing with adult prisoners once they reach 18.
Under the law, the maximum sentence that can be imposed on 16- to 17-year-olds for possession of a firearm is three years.
Jackie Worrall, director of policy and public affairs at Nacro, said: “In the current climate of huge overcrowding in the system this will be very damaging”.
Proposals in the Offender Management Bill currently going through parliament would enable young offenders on detention and training orders to be transferred to adult prisons when they reach 18. Worrall said this would mean young people would be exposed to more experienced criminals.
She added: “If we are talking about young people who need the security of a gang they will potentially look to someone for protection as a coping strategy and those people could be older and much more likely to suggest other ways of breaking the law.”
Kathy Evans, policy director at the Children’s Society, said: “Prison is not a deterrent – it has a degree of street cred – a young person may have already been in prison and found out how to gets guns in there.”
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