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England and Wales: New Powers to Prevent Knife Crime to Be Piloted Across London

(Mar. 25, 2020) On March 4, 2020, the government of England and Wales introduced new Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPO) under part 2 of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 as a pilot program to provide police throughout the London metropolitan area with greater powers to help prevent knife crime. KCPOs are preventive civil orders and can be imposed on any person aged 12 years or older who police believe regularly carries a knife , or who has been convicted of a knife-related offense. Guidance from the Home Office states that “KCPOs should be sought only where the applicant believes that the defendant under 18 is routinely carrying knives in public and is therefore at risk of engaging in, or becoming a victim of, knife crime.”
The Magistrates’ Court is responsible for making KCPOs, and three conditions must be met for such an order to be made. The first condition is that an application for a KCPO must be made by a senior police officer to the court. The court must then be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that, on at least two instances in a two-year period, the defendant has had a knife in his or her possession either in a public place in England and Wales, on school premises, or on the premises of a further education institute “ without good reason or lawful authority .” Good reason is defined in section 14(5) of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 as having possession of a knife if necessary for use at work, for educational or religious purposes, or as part of a national costume. The third condition is that the court must consider whether it is necessary to issue the KCPO for one of the following three reasons :
 (a) to protect the public in England and Wales from the risk of harm involving a bladed article,
(b) to protect any particular members of the public in England and Wales (including the defendant) from such risk, or
(c) to prevent the defendant from committing an offence involving a bladed article.
The aim of the pilot is to reduce and prevent the number of crimes involving knives and help redirect people away from this type of criminal behavior. In order to achieve this aim, KCPO’s may impose restrictions that prevent the individuals who are subject to the order from associating with people or engaging in activities specified in the order, restrict their internet use, and impose geographical restrictions and curfews. Section 21 of the Offensive Weapons Act also provides that KCPOs may also impose “positive requirements such as attendance at educational courses, life skills programmes, participation in group sports, drug rehabilitation and anger management classes.” KCPOs are made for a minimum period of six months up to a maximum period of two years. Breaching a KCPO is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.
The pilot program will run for a 14-month period, starting on April 4, 2020. The operation of the KCPO will then be assessed and, pending the results of the assessment, the government has stated it intends to introduce the orders across all police forces.
The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 is part of the government’s plan to tackle serious violence. Other plans from the Home Secretary include a significant increase in funding for the police force to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers over the next three years, along with new powers to make it easier for the police to stop and search individuals who are known for carrying knives.
Concerns have been raised by the Ben Kinsella Trust, a nonprofit group established to help prevent knife crime, that KCPOs could result in criminalizing young people as young as 12 for breaching the orders. Patrick Green, the CEO of the charity, stated that, while his organization “support[s] all approaches that aim to lead to a reduction in knife crime,” it wants to ensure that safeguards exist to provide young people with sufficient support to steer them away from knife crime much earlier, because “[e]arly intervention can help young people turn their lives around and should always be the first option.”
Labour MP Sarah Jones, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime and violence reduction, said the orders did not provide the needed solution because “[t]here is no evidence that they will do anything to help young people move away from violence – they need care and support rather than punitive action.” shares this Contents always with License.

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