UK

Knife crime curfew plan for 12 year olds

A man holds a sharp knife Image copyright Getty Images

Children as young as 12 could face curfews under Home Office plans to tackle knife crime.

Courts in England and Wales will get extra civil powers to tackle concerns about people suspected of carrying bladed weapons and serious violence.

The knife crime prevention orders (KCPOs) can be imposed by magistrate and youth courts on anyone who police believe is carrying a knife.

Critics say the move will "fast track" young people in to the justice system.

The orders were included in draft guidance as part of the Offensive Weapons Act.

Under the proposals, courts will also be able to impose geographical restrictions and prevent subjects aged 12 and over from meeting certain people.

The scheme, which was originally put forward by former Home Secretary Sajid Javid in January this year, was previously criticised by the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Baroness Lawrence said there were better ways to deal with knife crime than "criminalising" children.

Her son Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack in south-east London in 1993, aged 18.

Labour peer Baroness Lawrence, who has campaigned for police reforms, told the Home Affairs Select Committee a better focus would be to concentrate on educating children on what could happen if they carry knives.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced a series of knife crime prevention measures

Gracie Bradley from human rights group Liberty, suggested the orders will impose "punitive conditions" on young people "often without any proof that they have committed a crime".

She told the BBC: "They will then be criminalised if they fail to comply with these arbitrary restrictions on their liberty. This approach makes a mockery of the rule that we are all innocent until proven guilty, and will see young people fast-tracked into the criminal justice system."

The Home Office says before imposing a KCPO courts "must be satisfied, on the balance of probabilities that the suspect has carried a knife on at least two occasions" and it is "necessary to make the order to protect the public generally, or particular persons from risk of physical or psychological harm".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "We are cracking down on violent crime, which has a devastating impact on victims, their families, and our communities.

"Our Offensive Weapons Act will help to stop acids and knives making their way onto our streets and being used to carry out horrifying attacks."

The court order announcement comes days after another Home Office knife crime prevention campaign was labelled "out of touch" and "racist".

Chicken shop boxes carrying #knifefree slogans were distributed to more than 210 outlets in England and Wales.

More than 321,000 boxes will replace standard packaging at outlets including Chicken Cottage, Dixy Chicken and Morley's, the Home Office said.

Real life stories of young people who chose positive activities over carrying a weapon are printed inside the boxes.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the plan was "crude" and "offensive".

However, Ms Patel defended the campaign, accusing Ms Abbott of "playing politics with knife crime".

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