July 30, 2008 12:01 PM

LIBERAL Democrats in Newcastle are calling for tougher action against those caught selling knives to children and young people.

Ron Beadle, Parliamentary Spokesman for Newcastle North, made the call after being sent figures for prosecutions that were uncovered in Parliament by Chris Huhne MP, the party's Shadow Home Secretary.

The figures reveal that:

:: Only 71 people have been successfully prosecuted for selling knives to children in the last five years

:: None were sent to prison and only one was given a community sentence

:: 56 people were fined, but 21 of them were given fines of less than £200

"This is a completely inadequate deterrent to unscrupulous shop keepers who flout the law to sell these weapons to children and young people," said Ron Beadle.

"These tiny fines and a lack of custodial punishment is the wrong signal to those who profit from the illegal sale of knives.

"These figures are particularly worrying as they came to light only days after the release of other figures showing 351 serious crimes in the Northumbria force area involved a knife in 2007/8 - the worst in the North East region.

"Knife crime is 22% of all serious crimes taking place here.

"These figures do not record children and young people separately but they do show that knife crime is a serious problem.

"It is too easy for children and young people to get hold of knives. Too many are being drawn into a culture of carrying and using knives.

"Liberal Democrats believe that the courts must take a much stronger stand against those who are fuelling knife crime by illegally selling knives to children and young people.

"Cutting the supply of knives will be one of the most effective ways to reducing knife crime in the first place."

Ron is supporting Northumbria Police's knife amnesty which started across the force area last week and hopes that it will be effective in reducing the number of knives on the streets.

The maximum punishment for selling a knife to someone who is underage is six months in prison and/or a £5,000 fine. Since 1st October 2007 underage in this context has been under 18 years of age.

However the figures obtained by Chris Huhne are for the period 2002-6 (the latest period for which figures are available), when it was under 16 years of age.