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News - 5 June 2008
PM announces more bite to anti-knife laws
From today (Thursday) 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.
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.
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."
The government has implemented a range of anti-knife initiatives, doubling the maximum sentence for carrying a knife to 4 years, launching a new national £3 million advertising campaign to challenge the fear, glamour or peer pressure that can drive young people to knife crime, increasing the use of stop and search by police, improving witness anonymity and extending knife referral schemes so that young people convicted of carrying a knife receive education on the dangers and risks.
According to Attorney General Baroness Scotland : "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 end of knife cautions for over-16s is a key plank of a package of new measures including:
- £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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Police and A&E departments will work together in hotspot areas where police will agree to faster response times when A&Es ask for help in dealing with victims of violence; in return, A&Es will look at how they can record basic information about injuries caused by weapons
- 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.
According to government figures 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.
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.
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