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Victims slam 'soft touch' justice as only quarter of knife criminals jailed

PUBLISHED: 07:59 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:26 30 January 2020

Victims of knife crime have called for harsher sentencing as figures reveal a quarter of criminals caught with a knife in Norfolk were jailed in 2019. Picture: Courtesy of Mihaela Anda/Archant Library

Victims of knife crime have called for harsher sentencing as figures reveal a quarter of criminals caught with a knife in Norfolk were jailed in 2019. Picture: Courtesy of Mihaela Anda/Archant Library

Courtesy of Mihaela Anda/Archant Library

Knife crime victims today called for harsher sentences for those caught with weapons, as the latest figures reveal a quarter of offenders go to prison.

330 knife crime offences in Norfolk and 198 in Suffolk resulted in caution or conviction in Norfolk last year. Picture: Neil Didsbury330 knife crime offences in Norfolk and 198 in Suffolk resulted in caution or conviction in Norfolk last year. Picture: Neil Didsbury

A record number of knife crime offenders are being caught and punished, with the number of those jailed or cautioned in Norfolk increasing from 274 in 2009 to 330 last year.

Police said the increase showed they were taking a "zero-tolerance approach" when tackling drug dealing and knife crime.

But it raises questions on whether sentences are working.

And victims who have been "scarred mentally" from knife crime believes sentencing should be harsher.

Martyn Greenwood suffered a series of stab wounds after being attacked in Great Yarmouth in August 2018. Picture: Martyn GreenwoodMartyn Greenwood suffered a series of stab wounds after being attacked in Great Yarmouth in August 2018. Picture: Martyn Greenwood

Martyn Greenwood, who was stabbed in the neck on a night out in Great Yarmouth in August 2018, said the law was "too soft" and criticised the justice system for letting prisoners out early.

Donatas Jasmontas, who was 19 at the time, was initially accused of wounding Mr Greenwood but forensic analysis could not link him to the attack.

Instead Jasmontas, of Regent Road, Great Yarmouth, was sentenced to 44 weeks at a young offenders' institution for carrying a knife.

But Mr Greenwood, 25, said this was not long enough, given that Jasmontas already had five convictions for 10 previous offences.

"Sentencing should be harsher, especially for carrying a weapon when it could take someone's life," he said.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show there were 181 cases of knives being used in attacks in Norfolk last year.

Another 90 were reported in robberies and in 45 cases the perpetrator threatened to kill someone.

"I have been mentally scarred from the attack," Mr Greenwood said. "You can't feel safe walking at night."

This sentiment was also felt by loved ones of Cristina Magda-Calancea, 26, who was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend Gediminas Jasinskas in King's Lynn in September 2018.

She had returned home from work when she was attacked in her garage, in Fenland Road, by Jasinskas who had been waiting for her.

In January last year, Jasinskas, of Tennyson Avenue, King's Lynn, was jailed for a minimum of 20 years for murder.

Miss Magda-Calancea's brother, Razvan Milea, said prisoners should suffer and believed police should use stop and search powers more.

Cristina Magda-Calancea was stabbed outside her home in King's Lynn.  Picture: Courtesy of Mihaela AndaCristina Magda-Calancea was stabbed outside her home in King's Lynn. Picture: Courtesy of Mihaela Anda

Mihaela Anda, 25, who was a close friend of Miss Magda-Calancea's, said anyone caught with a knife should be sent to jail and not have their sentence reduced.

"Knife crime should be treated as high priority as nothing can make up the pain and devastation for the affected friends and families," she said.

The MoJ figures show more than a quarter of knife and weapon offences - 78 out of 302 - resulted in a prison sentence last year. That number has increased from 20pc in 2009.

The number of cautions, meanwhile, reduced dramatically, from 22pc in 2009 to 8pc last year.

Cristina Madga-Calancea's brothers Razvan Milea (L) and Sebastian Milea. Photo: Emily PrinceCristina Madga-Calancea's brothers Razvan Milea (L) and Sebastian Milea. Photo: Emily Prince

Around 16pc of offenders caught last year in Norfolk were under 18, while in Suffolk it was 23pc.

Val Crewdson, head of service at the Norfolk Youth Offending Team, said young people were being given support at the point of arrest as part of their 'challenge for change' intervention scheme.

"This has resulted in more than a 50pc reduction in the number of young people entering the youth justice system for the first time in Norfolk since the programme began in June 2015," she said.

The MoJ figures coincide with an increase in knife crimes being reported to Norfolk police, with the force's records showing a rise from 550 in 2017 to 643 in 2018.

Gediminas Jasinskas was jailed for the murder of Cristina Magda-Calancea. Picture: Norfolk PoliceGediminas Jasinskas was jailed for the murder of Cristina Magda-Calancea. Picture: Norfolk Police

In a bid to curtail knife crime, the judicial system imposes a sentencing starting point of three months for adults carrying a knife in a public place.

A Norfolk police spokesman said officers were also working with schools to prevent offending and educate youngsters of the risks of carrying knives.

A Suffolk police spokesman said: "The consequences of knife crime can be severe, even fatal, which is why we take any offences involving knives extremely seriously.

"We have a number of measures in place to tackle knife crime, we conduct regular proactive operations and educate young people about the dangers as well as working with partner agencies.

"Knife crime is a national, societal issue and we all have a part to play in keeping communities safe so if you know or suspect that someone is carrying a knife, report it."

Drill videos

There have been some connections made between knife crime and drill music, a subgenre of rap with violent lyrics.

Gangs have gained notoriety through drill music videos posted online, which was highlighted in the case of 17-year-old Tavis Spencer-Aitkens, who was stabbed to death in Ipswich.

Tavis Spencer-Aitkens, 17, died in hospital after being stabbed 15 times in Ipswich in June 2018. Picture: Archant LibraryTavis Spencer-Aitkens, 17, died in hospital after being stabbed 15 times in Ipswich in June 2018. Picture: Archant Library

Five men from a rival gang who attacked the teenager on June 2, 2018, in Packard Avenue, were given life sentences, four for murder and one for manslaughter.

During sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court on April 30 last year, Judge Martyn Levett said the rivalry between the two gangs were provoked and intensified through drill music videos posted on YouTube.

Similar videos have appeared on YouTube of men in Norwich brandishing a machete and posing with large wads of cash.

In one video, the so-called 'Caverone Gang' are seen in Jenny Lind Park and driving through Rose Lane.

A drill music video set in Norwich on Youtube shows a masked man brandishing a large knife. Picture: Trigon Visuals/YoutubeA drill music video set in Norwich on Youtube shows a masked man brandishing a large knife. Picture: Trigon Visuals/Youtube

Norfolk police said that while they are aware of the videos, posted in 2017, there is no evidence to link drill music and knife crime in Norwich.

A spokesman from Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care, run by Victim Support, said: "Knife crime can have a particularly devastating impact on victims long after physical wounds heal.

"We often see that both victims and witnesses of non-fatal knife crime still suffer from sleeplessness, anxiety and depression in the months after an incident."

For support, contact Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care on 0300 303 3706 or email nsvictimcare@victimsupport.org.uk

Knife crime and county lines in Norfolk - what's going on?

The Eastern Daily Press invites its readers and the community to contribute to a discussion on one of the burning issues affecting our county.

Join our journalists and representatives of local organisations in a one-hour conversation on the causes and effects of knife crime and county lines drug dealing in Norfolk.

All views are welcome, all voices will be heard.

A hunting knife seized by police in Coburg Street, Norwich, in July 2019. Picture: Dominic GilbertA hunting knife seized by police in Coburg Street, Norwich, in July 2019. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

This conversation will be held on Tuesday, March 3 at 10am in the EDP's Norwich newsroom.

Free refreshments will be available. Admission is free but by ticket only and you can sign up here.

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