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UK's Tough New Sanctions To Tackle Knife Crime

Home Office (UK)

Tough new sanctions to tackle knife crime

An end to knife cautions for those over the age of 16 was signalled today by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Justice Secretary Jack Straw and Attorney General Baroness Scotland sending the clear message that carrying knives is unacceptable and will result in tough consequences.

From today, anyone over the age of 16 caught in possession of a knife can expect to be prosecuted on the first offence.

Those under 16 who commit offences without aggravating factors can still expect to receive a caution coupled with referral to a knife education scheme to help them understand the dangers and consequences of carrying knives, and reduce the chances of re-offending. Their parents will also be notified and may receive parenting orders to ensure they play their part in changing their child's behaviour. If they go on to re-offend they are likely to be prosecuted.

The new sanctions follow a meeting at Downing Street this morning with Ken Jones the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss new national ACPO and Crown Prosecution Service guidance for police and prosecutors.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

"We have to send out a message and reinforce it with immediate action. It is completely unacceptable to carry a knife. Young people need to understand that carrying knives doesn't protect you, it does the opposite - it increases the danger for all of us, destroys young lives and ruins families. Recent tragic events have reminded us of that. I am pleased to see the Police and the Courts working with us to tackle this and make the streets safe in all our communities."

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"I am serious about getting knives off our streets. We have doubled the maximum sentence for carrying a knife to 4 years, launched a new national £3 million advertising campaign to challenge the fear, glamour or peer pressure that can drive young people to knife crime, increased the use of stop and search by police, improved witness anonymity and extended knife referral schemes so that young people convicted of carrying a knife receive education on the dangers and risks.

"Those who carry a knife on our streets need to know that they will be caught and should expect to end up in court. They will face tough consequences."

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said:

"It is crucial that we expose young people to the cold hard reality of the consequences of knife crime. Through the measures we are announcing today we are drumming home how carrying a knife can wreck lives."

Attorney General Baroness Scotland said:

"I totally support these initiatives which show how seriously we take knife crime.

"I have endorsed new guidance which brings into sharper focus for prosecutors the public interest factors supporting the prosecution of knife crime. The message to offenders is plain - if you are over 16 and in possession of a knife you can expect to be prosecuted. I am confident today's initiative will make it absolutely clear that it is not acceptable to carry knives on the streets, and that those who choose to do so will face serious consequences."

The effective end of knife cautions for the over 16s forms the key plank of a package of tough new measures which includes:

* On enforcement - £5 million of direct support for police and other delivery partners in the areas that are particularly affected by knife crime to support:

- Increased use of searches, in targeted and intelligence-led operations, to complement the 100 new portable knife arches and 350 search wands brought in over the last 3 months.

- Fast-tracking the 'knife referral project' in which all young people convicted of a knife offence but not receiving a custodial sentence attend a course to bring home the consequences of knife crime

- Home visits and letters to parents of those young people whom intelligence suggests are known to carry weapons.

* On rehabilitation - Youth Offending Teams will look at how they can work more closely with Primary Care Trusts and Hospital Trusts to explore a new element to Youth Referral Orders which would involve day-long courses for young offenders convicted of knife-related offences, led by health professionals, to educate them about the injuries caused by knife crime. Youth Offending Teams will also look at how they can work more closely with prisons at local level to explore prison visits as a new element to Youth Referral orders, to bring home the potential consequences of being caught and prosecuted for knife crime.

* In schools - all schools who want help to tackle persistent knife problems should get it from their local police force. Forces are continuing to expand the development of Safer Schools Partnership, alongside the work of Neighbourhood Policing Teams, offering advice and support to students, parents and teachers concerns about knives and help to make them feel safe and secure.

* With parents - parents must be part of the solution. Courts and Youth Offending Teams will be encouraged to make full use of the powers available to them and issue parenting orders to courts for knife offences for under 16s. Where under 16s are cautioned for a first offence, parents must be informed - and warned that for a second offence there will be an expectation of prosecution, and they may be liable to a parenting order.

* With hospitals - police and A&E departments already work well together in many areas, giving the police information which enables them to prevent violent crime, while respecting patient confidentiality. A new approach is being discussed with police and A&E departments where in hotspot areas police will agree to faster response times when A&Es ask for help in dealing with victims of violence; and in return, A&Es will look at how, consistent with patient confidentiality, they can record basic information about injuries caused by weapons - for example recording the time and place of the incident and passing that information on an anonymised basis to the police to help them improve the way they police the area. Additionally, the Government is looking at A&Es in hotspot areas can partner with independent organisations who work with young people involved in violence, including gangs - so that, for example, young people who turn up in A&E with injuries caused by violence can be referred immediately for confidential help.

The Government - working in partnership with police, young people, parents, support services and the broader community - will pursue these measures as part of a concerted effort to tackle knife crime and its underlying causes to ensure safer streets and communtiies for all.

NOTES

1. The new measures announced today will complement the wide range of actions recently introduced on knife crime, including:

* Doubling the maximum sentence for carrying a knife to 4 years

* A new national £3m advertising campaign designed by young people themselves to challenge the fear, glamour or peer pressure that can drive young people to knife crime

* Increasing the use of stop and search over the last year

* New proposals to provide early assurance of anonymity to witnesses, and support through the process of giving evidence safely.

The Government's approach, together with senior judges, has sent a clear signal. Most recent figures show that people prosecuted for carrying a knife are now almost three times as likely to go to prison as some ten years ago [6 percent in 1996, 17 percent in 2006], and the average sentence has increased by almost a third over the same period. Where the court decides not to send someone to prison, a programme of tougher community sentences is being developed, and courts would be expected to consider these for serious sentences such as knife possession.

2. The police forces which will receive additional funding are the Metropolitan Police Service, West Midlands police, Greater Manchester police, Merseyside police, Lancashire police, Essex police and Thames Valley police.

3. The Government is also developing a comprehensive Youth Crime Action Plan which will be published this summer and will include a broad range of measures to tackle all youth crime, including violence - from early prevention, parenting, enforcement, and rehabilitation.

4. Aggravating factors can include carrying a knife in or a near a school and if a person is in a gang.

Client ref 111/2008
COI ref 161653P

ENDS

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