A Spike In Youth Knife Crime. Solutions?
What Can The Legal System Do To Help Prevent Knife Crime?
This week, the Home Secretary is due to hold an urgent meeting with police chiefs with regards to the recent rise in knife crime. This follows a rise in the amount of senseless killing due to knife crime and the publication of figures showing the number of people aged 16 and under being stabbed rose by a shocking 93% between 2016 and 2018.
After analysing Freedom of Information request responses from 29 out of 43 police forces, Channel 4 discovered that the number of police-recorded offenders aged under 18 using a knife or sharp instrument to commit homicide rose by the worryingly high figure of 77% from 26 to 46 from 2016 to 2018.
The Home Office has responded by announcing that an extra £970m will be pumped into policing in 2019-2020 as well as a number of other measures.
The government is proposing tough new legislation to go along with this. This would mean harsher punishment for offenders caught with a knife.
An amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill, which is before parliament at the moment, proposes a new Knife Crime Prevention Order that has already been dubbed as a ‘Knife Asbo’.
What is a Knife Crime Prevention Order?
It is proposed that anyone aged 12 or over can be subject to a Knife Crime Prevention Order (KCPO) if:
- a) they are found to be carrying, without good reason, a bladed article in a public place (including a school) twice in a period of two years, and
- b) the court believes it is necessary to impose and order to protect the public or prevent the young person from committing a crime with a bladed article.
Applications for KCPOs can only be made by chief police officers, or the chief constable of the British Transport Police or the Ministry of Defence Police. Before making the application, if the defendant is under the age of 18, the relevant person must consult with the Youth Offending Team (YOT) for the area that the young person lives in.
The KCPO can require that a person:
- is in a particular place on specified days or between particular times
- reports to a specified individual on specified days/times
- participates in specific activities.
It can also prohibit the person from:
- being in particular places
- being with particular people
- taking part in specified activities
- using or having specified articles with them
- using the internet to facilitate or encourage crimes using bladed articles.
A KCPO would last between six months and two years. Breach of the KCPO would result in:
- on summary conviction, imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, a fine or to both;
- b) on conviction on indictment, imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, a fine or to both.
Will these new orders work?
Many doubts have already been aired, including the Magistrates’ Association, as to whether these new orders will really do what is needed to address the complex root problems of the increase in offending.