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We must get even tougher over knives.

Your comment in Wednesday night's paper quite rightly draws attention to the use of knives as lethal weapons and I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed.

You say it is time for the police and other agencies to find a solution to what is a growing national trend of young people carrying knives as a matter of course. I would like to reassure your readers that Northumbria Police is actively pursuing a number of solutions.

For some time now I have expressed the view that there should be a ban on all pointed weapons, including knives, in public places and that the strongest possible measures must be taken against offenders.

Let me make this absolutely clear: knives cause far more deaths and injuries than guns and people who carry them and other pointed weapons in public should face an immediate prison sentence. I will continue to press home this message at every opportunity.

In Northumbria, we have standardised our approach to dealing with offenders with knives. If someone is arrested and found to be carrying a knife they can either be charged with possessing "an offensive weapon" or "a bladed or pointed weapon". Although these offences carry similar penalties, possessing an offensive weapon tends to be treated more seriously by the courts and sentenced accordingly. It is also possible to issue a caution for such offences.

It is now Northumbria Police policy that anyone found at an incident with a knife will be charged, and they will be charged with possessing an offensive weapon.

We have used knife amnesties in the past to get dangerous weapons off our streets and will continue to consider this option in future. Only last month an amnesty was held in South Tyneside in direct response to the death of a teenager in 2006.

Through these, and other measures, we are chipping away at the problem. But the police cannot act alone. We must have the tangible support of others who have their part to play in keeping lethal weapons at bay. By others I mean the retailers, who must think about who is buying knives and for what reason, parents, who must take a more active role in governing how their children behave, and the courts, who must send out a clear message that knife crime will be punished effectively.

But amnesties, education and other long-term partnership actions are not enough. Only the prospect of certain imprisonment will deter those who end up killing or maiming others.

MIKE CRAIK, pictured, Chief Constable, Northumbria Police.

Smoking blights our shared home

I would like to draw readers' attention to smoking in sheltered housing.

Everyone in sheltered accommodation has their own flat, but the lounge is for everyone in the building.

Many old people think smoking should be stopped as it's a place we all play bingo and have a meal sometimes. Also, outsiders come in and smoke. A lot of elderly people have chest and breathing problems but these smokers don't care. It's banned in all other public rooms. Why not our lounges?

MMK, Laurel Court, North Shields.

Get healthier and help save lives

I am writing to appeal to all your readers to join me in an exciting and worthy initiative which I am currently taking part in.

After suffering from bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia last year and having a lucky escape, I have signed up to Meningitis UK's Slim into Summer campaign to raise money for a worthwhile cause as well as invest in my own health.

I realise many people are not as fortunate as me. I let my symptoms go untreated for a week because I believed I had nothing more than a bad hangover from a bank holiday weekend, but luckily, due to the prompt actions of my GP and Sunderland General Hospital, I recovered from this devastating illness.

Meningitis UK is offering some great prizes: the person who raises the most money for Meningitis UK will win a two-night weekend stay in the luxury five-star Hyatt Regency Hotel in London for two, and everyone who raises more than pounds 100 will be entered into a prize draw in which they could win a girls' night away for two people in Cheshire, which will include dinner, bed and breakfast; a one-hour facial or massage; a bottle of sparkling wine and full use of the healthclub and spa.

Meningitis UK is a national charity which has a single focus ( to find a vaccine to eradicate all forms of meningitis. Although vaccines exist to protect against some forms of the disease, there is still no vaccine available to protect against all strains, including the most common form ( meningococcal group B, which accounts for almost 90% of all cases in the UK and is what I suffered from.

To help me get started, the charity gave me a free slimming pack, which included slimming hints and tips and a slimming resources guide, plus they support me through newsletters and regular contact. For more information please contact Laura at Meningitis UK on (0117) 373 7373 or laurachapman@meningitisUK.org

DEBORAH MERRINGTON, Glebe, Washington

He's been beside Blair all along

While campaigning to be our next PM, in almost every speech Gordon Brown made, the underlying failure of New Labour Policies was manifest.

But wait a minute. Gordon Brown, pictured, was shoulder-to-shoulder with Tony Blair during the introduction of all these policies and commitments.

Let's go through a few of them. The disastrous Millennium Dome. The flawed Good Friday Agreement. Failure to modernise the House of Lords. Their disastrous immigration and asylum policy. Student top-up fees. The ID card fiasco. Ninety-day internment proposals and last but not least the illegal war on Iraq, which Brown not only supported but funded. I think the electorate would be foolish to accept as their leader someone with such as abysmal track record.

G SANDS, Co Durham.

Why do I see pupils on streets?

Nearly every day lots and lots of schoolchildren gather outside the Somerfield supermarket in Whickham, during all times of the day, not just at lunchtimes.

Can someone please tell me why these children are not at school? They just seem to wander around whenever they want, do what they want and go to school when they want or don't want.

Or have I got this wrong and they are "studying" in their own time?

NA, Whickham.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 19, 2007
Words:1061
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