A council cabinet member stressed the need for rehabilitation alongside punishment in the wake of the sentencing of the Croydon zombie knife attacker.

On Wednesday, Mayor Sadiq Khan referred the contentious suspended sentence to the Attorney General for review, after a number of prominent figures criticised it for being too lenient.

Hamida Ali, Labour cabinet member for Safer Croydon and Communities, today emphasised the need to balance robust sentencing for violent offenders with measures to rehabilitate them.

Councillor Ali said: "Robust enforcement is hugely important and will need to include custodial sentences.

"The judge seems to have taken into account significant contextual factors in coming to her decision, particularly the traumatic experience the defendant suffered in the run up to the attack.

"When we commit someone to a sentence, we have to consider what else we can do to get to grips with the reasons why they commit violence and use weapons, so when they come out they won't reoffend.

"It is as important as the message that a deterrent sends out to the community."

Your Local Guardian: Joshua Gardner

Joshua Gardner, 18, of Thornton Heath, was sentenced on Tuesday for smashing a car window with a large knife, in an incident widely shared on social media.

Figures in the Met slammed Judge Anuja Dhir QC's decision for undermining officers' ability to enforce the law.

Plans to create a new body which will tackle violence in Croydon by treating the causes of crime through a public health approach were voted through last week.

The Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) will approach violence like any other health issue that causes disease or physical harm, combatting it by treating its root causes.

Councillor Ali, representing Woodside, says it is crucial that the work of police and the courts is coupled with a longer term social strategy.

"There is a public consensus that the public health approach is the best. There's no one organisation alone that will be able to stop this.

"Elements of the public approach will not be popular as one part of it is the length of commitment we have to make to an area. It's a ten year strategy."

Conservative shadow cabinet member for Communities, Safety & Justice, Steve O'Connell, has condemned Gardner's sentence.

Councillor O'Connell, who represents Kenley, said: "I'm astounded and frankly horrified at the leniency. Ultimately the guy was carrying a shocking weapon.

"Possession alone should carry a custodial sentence. What sort of signal does that end out to people?"

Mr O'Connell is supportive of the VRU's preventative approach, but argues that, after an offence is commited, punishment must be robust.

"We have to get these knives off the streets.

"Of course it's better to prevent and to support people who are vulnerable much earlier. But when it gets too late, the consequences must be clear.

"You can’t completely police your way out of this, but we need a tough response from the police and judiciary."

Following the Mayor's referral the Attorney General's office has 28 days to review the "unduly lenient" sentence and make a decision.

If they agree, the case will be sent to the Court of Appeal to be judged again.

The judge cited a number of mitigating factors when explaining the suspension of sentence, such as that Gardner had already spent six months in custody since his arrest in May and that he had a good chance of rehabilitation.

Gardner, of London Road, was also given a nine month curfew and was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.