On March 4, 2020, under Part 2 of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 , the Government of England and Wales launched new Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPO) as a pilot initiative to give additional powers to police in the London metropolitan region to help combat knife crime. KCPOs are protective civil orders that can be enforced on someone aged 12 years or older who suspects that police carry a knife on a daily basis or who has been convicted of a knife-related crime. The Home Office ‘s advice notes that “KCPOs can only be pursued if the claimant suspects that the defendant under 18 regularly carries knives in public and is thus at risk of knife crime or being a victim of it.”
The Magistrates ‘ Court is responsible for making KCPOs, and for such an order to be made, three requirements must be met. The first condition is that a senior police officer must make an application to the court for a KCPO. The court must then be satisfied with the balance of probability that, in at least two cases over a two-year period, the defendant had a knife in his possession either in a public place in England and Wales, on school premises, or “without good cause or legal authority” on the premises of a further education college. Good reason is specified in section 14(5) of the Offensive Arms. The third condition is that the court must decide whether, for one of the following three factors, the KCPO needs to be issued:
(a) to shield the public from the possibility of harm involving a bladed article in England and Wales,
(b) to protect, or to protect, any specific members of the public in England and Wales (including the defendant) against this risk;
(c) prohibit an offence involving a bladed object from being committed by the defendant.
The goal of the pilot is to minimize and stop the number of crimes involving knives and to help steer individuals away from this form of criminal activity. In order to achieve this objective, KCPOs can impose restrictions prohibiting persons subject to an order from associating with or engaging in the activities specified in the order, restricting their use of the internet and imposing geographical restrictions and curfews. Section 21 of the Offensive Weapons Act also states that “good criteria such as participation in training courses, life skills activities, participation in group sports, drug recovery and anger management classes can also be enforced by KCPOs.” KCPOs are rendered for a minimum duration of six months up to a maximum period of two years. Breaching a KCPO is a criminal act, punishable by imprisonment of up to two years.
The pilot program will run for a period of 14 months, beginning on April 4 , 2020. The KCPO ‘s operation will then be evaluated and the government has announced that it plans to implement the directives throughout all police forces, pending the outcome of the evaluation.
The 2019 Offensive Weapons Act is part of the government’s effort to counter extreme abuse. The Home Secretary’s other proposals include a large boost in funding for the police force to employ an extra 20,000 police officers over the next three years, along with new powers to make it easier for the police to stop and check for people suspected to be carrying knives.
The Ben Kinsella Trust, a non-profit organisation set up to help deter knife crime, has raised fears that KCPOs could result in criminalizing young people as young as 12 for violating orders. The charity’s CEO, Patrick Green, said that while his organization “supports all methods aimed at reducing knife crime,” it needs to ensure that there are mechanisms to provide sufficient resources to young people to steer them away from knife crime much sooner, because “[e]arly intervention can help young people turn their lives around and should always be the first choice”
Labor MP Sarah Jones, chair of the all-party parliamentary committee on knife crime and prevention of abuse, said the orders did not offer the appropriate solution because “[t]here is no proof that they can do anything to help young people move away from violence, rather than disciplinary intervention, they need treatment and support.”