The Government has today (31/1/19) announced an amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill by including the introduction of ‘Knife Crime Prevention Orders’ (KCPO) which would appear to be a new form of ASBO. Such orders will be able to be imposed on children aged 12 years and over if the police believe them to be carrying a knife.
These new civil orders will restrict the liberty of those subject to the order by imposing curfews and geographical restrictions as well as limiting the individual’s use of social media. Breach of the order will be a criminal offence and the individual can be sent to prison for two years if convicted.
The orders are described as a deterrent, in reality we believe it is likely to fast track children into custody. Children carrying knives and other weapons regularly report that they do so because they are fearful of their own safety – balancing this against this the possible consequence of breaching an ASBO/KCPO is unlikely to deter them from ‘defending’ themselves. In our view education and preventative programmes are needed to change this narrative for young people.
The government argue this fills a gap which is not covered by existing preventative orders such as gang injunctions and criminal behaviour orders.
Home Secretary, Sajid Javid states that he has listened to the Police who are calling for these orders. It is a shame that there has been no consultation with agencies such as Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) who are key players in working with children to prevent them from offending.
Sajid Javid states said “It is vital we continue to focus on improving the law enforcement response while at the same time steering young people away from criminal activity in the first place”. Our view is that introducing such an order that is likely to result in a disproportionate number of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children entering custody which will not steer them away from crime but is putting them into the one place they are likely to meet other children who have committed offences.
The introduction of these orders also coincides with the work being undertaken by YOTs to address serious violent offending. YOTs use education and support programmes to help children understand that carrying a knife is more likely to result in they themselves becoming a victim and to address the reasons why they feel the need to do so.
The Youth Justice Board (YJB) has just recently formed a Serious Youth Violence Reference Group with a number of YOTs to consider how to develop and share best practice. The AYM calls for the government to reconsider this new measure and look instead for the police to work even closer with YOTs and other agencies to provide programmes that will really address youth violence and knife possession.
We do not want to introduce any measure that would most likely prohibit vulnerable of children from engaging with the police, who may on occasions be the only people on the street they can turn to when in trouble.