Tuesday's high-profile launch of a major new knife-crime strategy was thrown into disarray when Home Secretary Jacqui Smith scrapped plans to make offenders visit victims in hopsital, following a wave of criticism.
West Midlands Police is to be one of eight forces included in the schemes, which follow a series of horrific stabbings.
Victims included 20-year-old Thomas Coombs Duffield, who died after being attacked last Thursday in West Bromwich, in the Black Country, after a row in the street.
But Ms Smith, MP for Redditch in Worcestershire, committed a major u-turn before the policy was even officially released.
It followed widespread criticism of proposals leaked in advance of today’s announcement as part of a spin operation which went wrong.
Home Office briefing notes provided to journalists at the weekend said that the Government would introduce “more knife referral projects to ensure that people convicted of carrying a knife are confronted with the dangers of carrying knives - through (a) visits to A&E to see the impact of knife wounds; (b) meeting the families of knife victims to understand their pain.”
Ms Smith confirmed the proposals when she took part in a television interview on Sunday.
She was asked: “One of those proposals is that people caught carrying knives should be taken to see people in hospital who have been stabbed, or to meet the families of victims, is that correct?” The Home Secretary replied: “It is.”
Questioned about the policy during a press conference in Downing Street yesterday morningyesterday, the Prime Minister also seemed to confirm it.
He said: “That is just one of the measures we are considering that forces young people to face up to the consequences of their crimes.
“Forcing them to see what damage they have done to victims. Forcing them to see what’s happening in hospitals as a result of the actions they have taken.”
But by mid-afternoon, the Government had changed its story - and insisted that there had never been any plans for offenders to meet victims.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Ms Smith said offenders would go to hospitals but only to talk to doctors and surgeons, who would tell them about the damage knives do.
She said: “We are not, and I have never said we are, proposing to bring young people into wards to see patients.”
It followed complaints by Conservatives that offenders should go to prison, rather than to visit hospitals.