Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced plans to consult on new offences designed to “toughen up” the knife crime laws. The proposed new action would restrict the online sale of knives and ban the possession of dangerous or offensive weapons on private property.
The Home Secretary has announced her intention to tighten the law in order to stop under 18s from being able to purchase knives. The proposed measures would mean anyone who bought a knife online would be required to collect it in person, with retailers responsible for checking the age of all buyers.
It’s already an offence to sell knives to under 18 year-olds. The new offences would mean knives could no longer be delivered to private properties, in turn making it harder for underage sales to go undetected.
Banning the possession of outlawed weapons – such as zombie knives, knuckledusters and ‘throwing stars’ – on private property would mean the police could then seize them and make arrests. The proposal comes after police called for more powers to take action if they find such weapons in someone’s home.
A new consultation will seek views on whether the offence of possessing a knife in a public place and on school premises should be extended to also include the grounds of other educational establishments, such as higher education institutions.
“Knife crime has devastating consequences,” stated Rudd. “I’m determined to tackle this and to do all I can to break the deadly cycle and protect our children, families and communities. The action I’m setting out will help to keep people safe and give police the powers they need to crack down on offenders. Prevention is also key. We’ll be working to educate our young people and give them the strength they need to turn away from knives.”
Recorded crime figures
Recorded police crime figures from the Office for National Statistics for the year ending December 2016 show that more than 32,000 knife crime offences took place, representing a 14% increase on the previous year.
Although some of that increase is down to improved police recording practices, it may also represent a real increase in some areas of the country.
There were over 4,000 hospital admissions for assaults involving sharp weapons in England in the year ending March 2016. That’s a 13% rise, with 771 cases involving children or teenagers aged 19 or under.
The Government is working to tackle this, banning the sale of the aforementioned ‘zombie knives’ last year and collaborating with major retailers to prevent the sale of knives to those who are too young to be buying them.
It supports the police-led Operation Sceptre, a series of co-ordinated weeks of intensified action on knife crime that takes place across the country, and which includes weapon sweeps, test purchases in shops, the targeted use of Stop and Search powers and the deployment of surrender bins.
A record 32 police forces are taking part in the current week of action, which began on Monday 17 July, after the Home Office hosted a Knife Crime Summit last month aimed at encouraging more parties to become involved.
The Home Secretary has also visited a Metropolitan Police Service operation to view some of the knives police officers have seized and see a knife arch in action. In addition, the Government is considering a series of new non-legislative measures designed to tackle knife crime as part of a comprehensive action plan currently being set out.
The Government also intends to launch a new anti-knife crime campaign in the Autumn as well as a dedicated £500,000 fund for community projects that will tackle the issue.
There are plans to expand the capacity of youth violence intervention projects based in hospital A&E Departments in a bid to reach out to youngsters and try to divert ‘at risk’ young people from crime.
John Poyton, chief executive of Redthread Youth, said: “Every day in A&E we see the devastating impact knife crime has on young people, their families and the wider community. More needs to be done to lower the numbers of young people meeting our youth workers in London’s major trauma centres. Restricting the availability of knives to under 18s is an important contribution to creating safer communities.”
Comment from the NPCC
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Lead on Violence and Public Protection, said: “After years of decreases, knife crime is on the rise again. The police service is fully determined to bring it back down and prevent more unnecessary deaths of young people with their lives ahead of them and stop more families from being torn apart.”
Bailey added: “More forces than ever before are participating in Operation Sceptre, which has been successful in taking a significant number of weapons off the streets since the initiative launched back in 2015.”
In conclusion, Bailey observed: “There’s no easy solution to knife crime. Enforcement alone is certainly not the answer. Throughout this week and beyond, the police will be working with all those who have a role to play in tackling knife crime because that’s the only way in which we’ll achieve a long-term change for the better.”