The Metropolitan Police is to test measures to prevent knife crime that could result in children as young as 12 being caught up in the criminal justice system for breaching civil orders.
The Home Office announced today that legislation has been laid in parliament to pilot knife crime prevention orders, which were introduced through the Offensive Weapons Act 2019. Fatal stabbings in England and Wales were at their highest in 2018 since the Home Office Homicide Index began in 1946.
The civil orders can be imposed by courts on anyone aged 12 or over who the police believe is regularly carrying a knife, or if they are convicted of a knife-related offence. Courts could impose geographical restrictions and curfews, as well as mandatory attendance in sports, drug rehabilitation and anger management classes.
The pilot will begin on 6 April and run for 14 months.
The Home Office said the orders are intended to be preventative rather than punitive.
Crime and policing minister Kit Malthouse said: ‘We are doing all we can to tackle serious violence and make our streets safer. The police have our full support and these new orders are an example of us ensuring officers have the powers they need to bear down on violent crime.’
Commander Jane Connors from the Metropolitan Police Service said the prevention orders ‘will no doubt be well received in protecting young vulnerable individuals, who get caught up in violence whilst also preventing further acts of violence and helping to keep our communities safe’.
Last year the Gazette reported that the government had not consulted lawyers, magistrates, youth offending teams and social workers on the prevention orders.
Linda Logan, chair of the Magistrates Association's youth court committee, told the Gazette: 'These orders have been introduced without proper consultation or a firm evidence base to rely on, so it is impossible to know whether they are what is needed to deal with the current problems. These pilots must therefore be a genuine test of whether they have any positive effect. If not, then they should not be rolled out further.
'We are particularly concerned that their use may worsen existing overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic young people in the justice system and this issue must therefore be at the heart of the evaluation of the pilot.'