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Hummelgaard hums and haws over tougher knife crime sanctions in Denmark

Sebastian Haw
April 3rd, 2023


Current penalties for knife crime are considered insufficient (photo: Pixabay)

The justice minister, Peter Hummelgaard, has decided to take the approach of legal whack-a-mole in his attempts to fight knife crime, reports DR

He has been criticised for proposing heavier punishments for those involved in knife assault under the assumption that “tougher penalties work”.

Those opposing the amendments say that tougher penalties do not, in fact, work, and that penalising people from disadvantaged areas, as most people involved in knife crime are, is counterproductive.

This view is corroborated by reams of academic research indicating that heavier punishment does not have the desired effect of eradicating a specific crime.

Real-world thinking
Pressed on the subject of researchers’ criticism of his measures, Hummelgaard said: “I take it as an sign that there are some researchers who live in a world of researchers. The police and myself, by the way, live in the real world.”

Hummelgaard cites the tougher penalties applied to those carrying firearms, which he believes has led to a recent increase in stabbings in the capital region, which continued over the weekend with an incident on Frederikssundsvej in Nordvest late on Sunday morning.

He reasons that the increased punishment for carrying firearms in 2017 led directly to a decrease in gun crime – and therefore the same will apply to knife crime if it is penalised more harshly.

Experts, however, have pointed out that Hummelgaard’s ideas are more opinion than fact: without hard evidence we cannot be sure that these measures will have an impact.

Expert opinions
David Sausdal, who has a PhD in criminology, doubts the efficacy of the planned amendments.

“It is a very ineffective way of approaching it – if it is effective at all,” he said.

“Particularly when it comes to more serious crime – such as gang crime – higher penalties are typically not something that plays a big role for the criminals. They often have a poor grasp of what the punishments for various offences are. They don’t read Politiken or listen to the radio.”

In the UK, where knife crime has long been a grievous issue, heavier penalties have not worked, and some commentators have come round to the idea that justice must be restorative rather than purely punitive. 


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