Sunderland knife campaigner’s open mind on sentencing changes

John Johnson with a photo of murdered son Kevin
John Johnson with a photo of murdered son Kevin

A Sunderland dad whose son was stabbed to death says he is keeping an open mind on new guidelines which could see longer jail terms for those caught carrying a knife.

John Johnson, 67, has campaigned for tougher sentences since his son Kevin, 22, was stabbed to death outside his home in Partick Road, Pennywell, in May 2007, after complaining to youths that their rowdy behaviour was keeping his new baby awake.

The prisons are that full, that’s why they are letting them go - there is nowhere for them to put people.

John Johnson

The three teenagers locked up for life after they were convicted of his murder were aged just 16, 17 and 18 at the time of the killing.

John and wife, Kath, 68, from Ryhope, have been joined by Kevin’s partner, Adele Johnson, who has changed her surname from Brett as the couple were planning to marry. Kevin’s son Chaise has also joined his family on marches.

From June 1, judges will have greater powers to jail those convicted of carrying a bladed weapon or offensive weapon, such as acid, in public and of using one to threaten someone, for longer.

The new guidelines aim to ensure consistency in sentencing.

The current guidance gives the highest sentences to those offenders who make threats with knives - they will always receive sentences greater than six months.

The new guidelines could see longer jail terms for anyone simply caught in possession of a knife.

The change is the latest in a series over the years - and John Johnson says he will wait until the courts are actually implementing the new guidance before passing judgement.

“There have been changes before but the courts have not done anything about it,” he said.

“The prisons are that full, that’s why they are letting them go - there is nowhere for them to put people.”

John also believes it is necessary to tackle the underlying issues which drive young people to carry knives, particularly drugs and gangs.

“It is all drug-related,” he said. “Because of the drugs, they don’t know what they are doing half the time, they are not bothered.

“In the likes of Manchester, Birmingham and London, there is that ongoing threat. It is like a culture.

“They used to carry Stanley knives - now it is machetes and things like that.”