The latest ONS Crime in England and Wales bulletin shows an alarming increase in knife crime. In 2017/18, police recorded 40,147 offences involving knives or sharp instruments, a 16% increase and the highest number since 2011. The 2017 total was itself a 22% increase on 2016.
Hospital admissions have risen even more rapidly: in 2016/17, 11,144 admissions were due to ‘Contact with knife, sword or dagger’ – an increase of 82%.
My experience as a circuit judge sitting at Inner London and Luton Crown courts is that in some circles it is almost routine for young teenage boys to carry knives.
The underlying causes are complex, but the most important factor is the
ready availability of kitchen knives. Every kitchen contains lethal knives which are potential murder weapons. Any boy who wants a knife can take it from the kitchen drawers.
But why we do need long kitchen knives with points? How often does a domestic chef use the point of a long knife? Rarely. Yes, we need short knives with points to fillet fish or pierce meat, but they are unlikely to be lethal. Any blade can cause an injury, but slash wounds are rarely fatal. It is the points which cause life-threatening and fatal injuries.
Has the time come to regulate all sales of long pointed knives and replace them with rounded ends? At the very least, shops should sell alternatives to pointed blades. In 1998, legislation to reduce pack sizes of paracetamol was followed by significant reductions in deaths due to paracetamol overdoses. If measures were taken to blunt the points of knives, the number of fatal and life-threatening injuries would lessen significantly.
Nic Madge, retired circuit judge