by Police Sergeant Andy Smith.
Norfolk as a county is officially recognised as the safest in the country and North Norfolk is a beautiful tranquil area which is considered the safest part of our county. Therefore the incident that occurred outside Cromer Police Station on the 9th October 2012 is all the more extraordinary for this part of the world.
Only days after two of my colleagues from Greater Manchester were lured to their death by Dale Cregan, 29 year old Shane Denton from Cromer attended the police station whilst intoxicated and threw a bottle of spirits at the window to draw me out of the building. As I approached him, he pulled two knives from his waistband and after offering a brief apology, thrust one of the blades towards my chest striking me around the area of the sternum. Fortunately I was protected by my body armour and that prevented me receiving serious injury, however had he made contact with me an inch or two higher, the point of the knife would have struck me above my protective vest and potentially penetrated my face or neck which could have resulted in a fatality. Denton then from a distance of approximately four feet, threw the two knives with force towards my head but fortunately I was able to duck both of them and it was at this point I was able to strike him with my baton and restrain him on the floor before he could cause any injury to me or make off and pose a threat to members of the public lawfully going about their business.
Last month Denton who has been remanded in custody for the past four months, was sentenced to serve five years and four months in prison for this attack. There is to be new legislation coming into force imminently including the offence of aggravated possession of a knife, and mandatory life sentences for anyone committing a second serious violent or sexual crime. The offence of aggravated knife possession targets those who wield knives in a public place or school to threaten and create a risk of serious physical harm.
In almost all such cases, judges must impose a custodial sentence – a minimum six months for an adult or a four-month detention and training order for 16- and 17-year-olds.
There is also the “two strikes” system which means a new mandatory life sentence for people convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence.
Prison does not just affect those who are sentenced. It affects those around you, mothers, fathers, partners, grandparents and probably most significantly, children. Consider if you are sentenced what you are likely to miss – birthdays, Christmas, the birth of a child, their first steps, the first words, starting school. What happens if a parent suddenly become gravely ill, could you live with the fact that you weren’t able to see them one last time before they passed away as you were detained in prison for such an offence. Are you sure your partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife will be prepared to wait for you to be released or may they seek solace in the arms of another knowing you could do nothing to prevent it.
And consider the impact of such a prison sentence on your life even if you do manage to see through your sentence. Would your current employer keep your job open for you, I seriously doubt it, how highly do you rate your chances of finding alternative employment, in these days of high unemployment, employers can afford to be very choosy over who they take on and if your record shows you to have been imprisoned for violence related offences, they are likely to look elsewhere. Travel is also an issue, you will be refused entry to the USA if you hold such a conviction for this or a number of other offences, so take a while to consider the moment your children ask if they can go to Disneyland Florida and you have to tell them they can’t or if they do, you can’t go with them and enjoy the experience as a family.
Obviously there are an indefinite number of reasons not to carry a knife in a public place and those listed above are literally just the tip of the iceberg. The most important one though remains the potential for loss of life. The knife you take out onto the streets could be used on you as easy as it could be used on another. That moment of madness when you walked outside carrying a knife or other bladed article, no matter whether you intended to use it or were just carrying it for protection can have devastating effects on so many people and is likely to destroy the rest of your life.
As the justice secretary Chris Grayling recently said when outlining these new measures, “If you’re wandering round carrying a knife in a threatening way, you will go to jail.”
About the author: Andy Smith is a Police Sergeant with Norfolk Constabulary based in Cromer on the North Norfolk coast. He has twenty one years of policing experience, 13 of which were in the West Midlands and prior to this he spent six years in the military police, the vast majority of which was spent in Northern Ireland.