A SPATE of serious knife attacks in Gloucestershire during the last year has prompted a tough warning from the county's top judge.

People who use knives in crime can expect long jail terms - and those who arm themselves deliberately to attack people will receive sentences up to 12 years, says Judge Jamie Tabor QC.

He spoke out on a day when he and his fellow Gloucester Crown Court judge, William Hart, were dealing with three men who had used knives to rob or injure other people.

His hard-hitting comments come in the wake of the fatal stabbing of hairdresser Hollie Gazzard in Gloucester last week and the deaths of two other knifing victims in the previous ten months.

"Knife crime has become a particular problem here in Gloucestershire," said the judge.

"In the last ten months at least three people have died as a result of injuries inflicted by knives. Several others have received potentially life threatening injuries as a result of someone producing a knife."

The judge said his court is all too often seeing crimes involving knives in a number of different ways.

There are those found with prohibited weapons on them who claim they are for their work - such as carpet fitting - or their hobby, such as fishing, he said.

"Such excuses carry very little weight. There is a particular responsibility upon those who lawfully have such articles to ensure they are only carried when the article is immediately required.

"At all other times these articles should be kept in a toolbox or fishing bag, out of reach or harm's way."

It is a 'lame excuse', said the judge, for anyone to claim they have a knife for self defence.

"If found guilty of carrying such an article all defendants, whatever their excuse, will be sent to prison even if that defendant has never been in trouble before - unless there are quite exceptional reasons."

The judge said anyone who produces and brandishes a knife will receive even tougher sentences.

Judge Tabor said the criminal use of knives within the home and in domestic settings would also inevitably mean prison.

"The grabbing of such a weapon in a heated and volatile atmosphere is highly dangerous, particularly when alcohol has been consumed and the situation is such that it almost always means that a life is endangered once the weapon is taken up," he said.

But those who produce a knife intending to cause injury will receive the longest sentences which could be up to 12 years.

"When they produce a knife it is chance, and nothing else, that decides whether the victim lives or dies," he said.

"I have lost count of the number of times I have heard, both as a barrister and a judge, 'I did not intend to seriously hurt or kill my victim.'

"Knives, when they have cut the skin, penetrate the body very easily. It is sheer chance whether or not a vital organ or artery is severed or damaged in the body, leg or arm.

"Thus it is luck and luck alone as to whether the victim lives or dies.

"It is the court's responsibility to protect the public from knife carriers. It has every intention of doing so by using the full powers provided by Parliament."