By Robin Chrystal
Youngsters back tough sentences for knife crimes
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More serious offenders face life
Knife crime rises by 8% in London
Any 16 or 17-year-olds caught carrying knives will be given custodial sentences under government plans. But what do teenagers at a London event aimed at cutting youth crime make of it?
Benjamin Akande knows exactly how it feels to be threatened with a knife.
"He opened his coat. I could see it," he recalls of the time he was "flashed" with a blade.
The student, from Coopers Technology College in Chislehurst, south-east London, was among 90 youngsters gathered at the capital's City Hall to discuss how best to combat youth violence.
He has no hesitation in backing mandatory prison sentences. But he thinks the message about the consequences of carrying a weapon needs to sink in with youths on the streets.
"Carrying a knife is for protection, that's why they do it," he says.
"Most people think they can get away with it so I think it should be a two-year sentence."
Under the plans, announced by ministers last month, 16 or 17-year-olds convicted of threatening people with knives will get a mandatory minimum custodial sentence of four months.
And many of those at the City Hall event, including youngsters from areas with the capital's highest youth crime rates, agree with the government's tough new approach.
"Yeah, that's a good thing," says Eve Gina-Osagie, 15, from Eltham Foundation School, south London. Schoolmates Charlotte Akers and Louis Wright, both 14, agree.
But there is also strong scepticism about whether the new sentence will deter those who carry knives.
"It won't make any difference," says Jamal Ossai, from Coopers Technology College, with a note of resignation.
Louis Wright agrees: "Having a knife is about feeling safe on the streets and some people feel...