Knife Crime Prevention Orders: punishment without conviction?
Under pressure to reduce knife crime the government have introduced tough new powers, initially only in London, to target those people they believe are carrying knives.
Applications will be made when the police do not have enough evidence to prosecute a person for carrying knives in public but have some information, often hearsay, that they might be doing so. Knife Crime Prevention Orders carry forced requirements that are similar to punishments for those convicted of crimes. They may ban someone from using social media, entering a neighbouring postcode, or meeting with friends. Orders could include night time curfews or forced education.
Failure to follow the order’s requirements is a criminal offence for which a person can be imprisoned for up to 2 years. Finally, those subject to an order are forced to go on a register and must report their personal details to a police station; this process mirrors the infamous Sex Offenders’ Register. Not complying with the register requirements is also a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment.
The above provisions provide the police with considerable power to adversely affect peoples’ lives. These powers are normally justified after someone has been convicted of an offence and form part of their punishment. Under these proposals a person subject to an order will not have been convicted of a crime and by their very nature, these cases involved weaker allegations; if the evidence was strong the person would be prosecuted.
Controversially the police can obtain an interim Knife Crime Prevention Order without notice to the defendant. This means they can go to court in secret to obtain an order without allowing a defendant to respond with evidence.
The Home Secretary’s announcement of these powers highlighted how they will be used on children as young as 12 years old and it is clear they will be often used on children and young adults. Parents and guardians therefore have an important role in helping them access their rights and to have a voice in the proceedings.
Those subject to an order will no doubt be entered onto policing databases. Though not a criminal conviction this is still a record which is available to the police to disclose in Enhanced DBS checks. For a minority of people, it might affect future employment and migration to certain countries such as the USA.
Legal aid is available to defend these applications and those affected should contact us for help and representation at court. We will challenge evidence on your behalf, we will cross examine officer and help you build a strong defence case if you feel unfairly treated.