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A guide to Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs)

Knife crime has become a major public issue in recent years, developing into a persistent concern for the UK government and society at large. Between April 2018 and March 2019, police recorded 43,516 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument, in comparison with 40,215 in the year ending March 2018. This is the highest number since comparable data was compiled.

What is knife crime?

Knife crime is simply any crime that involves a knife. This can include carrying a knife, attempting to buy a knife (if under the age of 18), threatening a person, carrying a knife that’s banned, stabbing a person, or using a knife to commit a robbery or burglary.

The current outlook

According to Home Office statistics for England and Wales (for the year ending March 2019), the most common knife crimes were assault (21,700 offences) and robbery (20,172). According the Ministry of Justice, 10 to 17 year-olds represent approximately 20% of those cautioned or convicted of knife offences, with most individuals within this age group receiving a community sentence or warning.

It may be true that the rate of knife attacks in some regional towns and cities is higher than in many London boroughs, but it’s impossible to ignore the epidemic occurring in England’s capital. London has recorded the highest rate of 169 offences involving a knife per 100,000 population, according to the Office for National Statistics (during the 12 months to the end of September 2019). That said it’s important to understand that these startling figures must be seen in context. For example, it’s still relatively uncommon for a violent incident to involve a knife, and rarer still for a person to require hospital treatment. For example, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (which includes offences that are not reported to police) suggests overall levels of violence have fallen by about a quarter since 2013, with most violent crime caused by people hitting, kicking, shoving or slapping.

What are Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs)?

Knife crime prevention orders are civil orders that can be imposed on people who the courts believe pose a threat to the public through the use of a bladed weapon. Drawing similarities with Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), these powers are to be introduced as part of the Offensive Weapons Act, which endeavors to tackle knife crime and serious violence. KCPOs allow for restraints to be placed on suspects, such as limiting their social media activity to prevent gang rivalries escalating online. Upon introducing KCPOS, Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said:

“I have been clear that I will do everything in my power to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives. The police already have a range of measures they are using to keep our streets safe, but there is more we can do to help them in this battle. I have listened to their calls and will be introducing these new orders to stop gang members carrying knives in the first place.”

In addition to limiting social media use, KCPOs allow courts to place curfews and geographical restrictions on suspects, whilst courts can also prohibit suspects from being with particular people. These orders can be imposed on any individual aged 12 or above, whom the police believe:

  • Routinely carries a knife
  • Is carrying a knife
  • Has been previously convicted of a knife related offence

Applications for KCPOs can only be made by chief police officers, the chief constable of the British Transport Police or the Ministry of Defence Police. Before making the request for a person under the age of 18, the relevant official must consult with the Youth Offending Team for the individual’s area. According to the Home Office, before imposing a KCPO, courts "must be satisfied, on the balance of probabilities that the suspect has carried a knife on at least two occasions.”

How long do KCPOs last?

A knife crime prevention order can last between six months and two years, and breach of the order would result in:

  • On summary conviction, imprisonment (for a term not exceeding six months), a fine or both.
  • On conviction on indictment, imprisonment (for a term not exceeding two years), a fine or both.

Will knife crime prevention orders work?

There has been a great deal of debate around the introduction of KCPOs, not just in parliament but also in the media. David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, warned the plans threatened to lead to more criminalisation of young people, rather than dealing with the wider social issues. Some go further, stating the orders will increase mistrust of police, as they have the power to punish without evidence. According to criminologists at the University of Manchester, Jo Deakin and Laura Bui, KCPOs stigmatise young people as ‘risky’ and this “draws them into conflict with the authorities, as young people become over-policed and over-surveilled.” The government claims the orders are aimed at young people who are at risk of engaging in knife crime; at people the police call “habitual knife carriers”. They believe KCPOs will prevent and support suspects in staying away from crime.

At Noble Solicitors, we keep a close eye on emerging developments in criminal law, whilst our knowledgeable team is committed to challenging the boundaries of legislation, fighting for our clients and protecting their rights. If you would like to speak to us about KCPOs or knife crime, or wish learn more about our work in this area, please get in touch with our team today on 07000 81 82 83. Alternatively, please send us a message and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

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