July 20 2022

Knife ASBOs ‘risk criminalising a generation of young people’

Knife ASBOs ‘risk criminalising a generation of young people’

Knife Angel by Terry Kearney (from Flickr). Sculpture by the artist Alfie Bradley

A new ASBO-style order has been introduced by the Home Secretary to tackle the spiraling knife crime in London and beyond. 2018 was the deadliest year for knife attacks in London with 134 people losing their lives.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, has launched the Knife Crime Prevention Order in attempt to curb the rising number of attacks. ‘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,’ Javid said.

This order includes powers to restrict the use of social media as well as curfews, geographical restrictions and requiring those under the order to attend knife crime awareness courses. The social media restrictions are an addition to these ASBO-type orders and, according to the Home Secretary, would help prevent the rapid escalation of rival gang disputes often propelled online. People subject to the order would be prohibited from accessing particular websites or making contact with specific people online.

‘I have been clear that I will do everything in my power to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives… ,’ Javid said. ‘I have listened to their calls and will be introducing these new orders to stop gang members carrying knives in the first place.’

The Knife Crime Prevention Order is a civil order which will apply to anyone over the age of 12. In particular, those who are known to have routinely carried blades or have previous knife-related convictions will be subject to the order. Each case will go through the courts in front of judges who will assess the police intelligence before them and impose conditions on the order on a case-by-case basis. The orders will last two years and there will be an annual review of the conditions imposed on adults, and a more frequent review for juveniles. A breach of the order could lead to imprisonment for up to two years.

Sarah Jones, chairwoman for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime, called the government’s proposal ‘flawed’. ‘Knife crime is an epidemic which the government has failed to grip,’ she commented. Jones argues that ‘imprisoning a young person, as young as 12 years old, for two years for breaching this order is completely disproportionate’. ‘It risks criminalising a generation of young people who have grown up unsupported and who often turn to carrying weapons out of fear,’ she said.

Met chief superintendent John Sutherland tweeted that police enforcement alone was ‘not the long-term solution to knife crime’. ‘Stop & Search undoubtedly saves lives, but if we really want to do something to change the fact that our children are dying, something very different is required.’

Javid conceded that the Knife Crime Prevention Orders were not enough by themselves to deal with knife crime ‘but coupled with everything else we are doing – increasing resources, other powers, the work that we are doing to have early intervention and stop people turning to a life of crime in the first place – with these knife crime prevention orders it’s going to make a big difference’.