Closed petition Increase sentences relating to knife crime

Revise the law relating to knife crime and carrying knives. At current the punishment for carrying a knife as a first time offender carries no minimum sentence and a one year maximum sentence. In order to counter act the rise of knife crime the law needs to be looked at and changed.

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I want the UK Government to make carrying a knife and knife crime possess a harsher sentence to deter at risk youths from putting their own and other lives at risk.
I believe a minimum of at least 36 months should be given to anyone caught carrying a knife as a first time offender and 7 years for anyone with previous convictions. In addition to this, where someone is stabbed and they survive, the offender should be jailed for a minimum of 14 years after attempting to take someone’s life.

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Government responded

This response was given on 29 June 2021

The government keeps offences and penalties under review. Minimum sentences are rarely used; there are currently no plans to introduce further minimum sentences in this area.

The government’s top priority is to keep people safe. We understand the devastating impact knife crime has on victims and their families, and are determined to put a stop to violent offences that involve knives. It is essential that offenders serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes – helping to protect the public and giving victims confidence that justice has been served.

Parliament has provided courts with the powers they need to effectively deal with the range of offences and offenders which come before them. Where someone is actually harmed by a knife or offensive weapon, there are a range of offences that the person may be charged with, such as causing grievous bodily harm. These can result in lengthy sentences, including life imprisonment. For offenders aged 18 and over who bring a knife or another weapon to the scene of a murder with the intention of using it, courts will consider a minimum term spent in custody of at least 25 years.

An individual convicted in the last 3 years of threatening with or possessing a knife or offensive weapon was more likely to receive a custodial sentence, and to receive a longer custodial sentence, than at any point in the last decade.

For being in possession of a knife or offensive weapon, the maximum penalty is 4 years’ imprisonment. Over half (57%) of offenders cautioned or convicted of this offence for the first time received a custodial sentence in 2019 in comparison to a third (34%) ten years earlier. In 2015, we introduced minimum custodial sentences for repeat knife possession and offences that involve threatening with a weapon. Adults face a minimum of 6 months’ imprisonment whilst young people aged 16 or 17 face a minimum 4-month Detention and Training Order. Since the introduction of the minimum custodial term people caught carrying a knife or offensive weapon for a second time are now more likely than ever before to receive a custodial sentence – in 2019, 86% of offenders received a custodial sentence for repeat possession offences.

When sentencing, the courts consider the full circumstances of the offence and offender and must follow any relevant sentencing guidelines produced by the independent Sentencing Council. The guidelines are clear that for any offence the use of a weapon will be treated as an aggravating factor meriting an increased sentence.

While judicial discretion will be retained, in the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill the government is amending the criteria for passing a sentence below the minimum term to seek to ensure that courts depart from the minimum sentence only in exceptional circumstances.

As an additional tool police will be able to use to help steer young people and adults away from knife crime and serious violence, the government introduced Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs) through the Offensive Weapons Act 2019. Breaching an order can result in up to two years in prison. KCPOs will be piloted by the London Metropolitan Police.

In the PCSC Bill currently before Parliament the government has also introduced Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs). These will give the police powers to make it easier to stop and search those already convicted of knife and offensive weapon offences. A person who is subject to an order will know that if they persist in carrying a weapon, there is a greater chance they will be searched, detected and arrested.

Through the Prime Minister’s Crime and Justice Task Force, the government has made it clear that the focus on enforcement must be matched with a focus on prevention and early intervention. To help drive the cross government strategic response to serious violence we are taking action across a range of services including children’s social care, education, and investing £200 million in a Youth Endowment Fund, to ensure those most at risk are given the opportunity to turn away from violence and lead positive lives. From 2019 to 2022, this government will have provided over £242 million, through the Serious Violence Fund, to address the drivers of serious violence at the local level and significantly bolster the police response in 18 police force areas most affected by serious violence across England and Wales.

Police funding is increasing and on 4 February 2021, the government published a total police funding settlement of up to £15.8 billion in 2021/22, an increase of up to £636 million compared to 2020/21. Across England and Wales, we are also recruiting 20,000 additional police officers by the end of March 2023 – the biggest recruitment drive in decades.

Ministry of Justice

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/563199)

Other parliamentary business

Original Government response

Those convicted in the last 3 years of threatening with or possessing a knife/offensive weapon were more likely to receive a custodial sentence – and for longer – than at any point in the last decade.

The government’s top priority is to keep people safe. We understand the devastating impact knife crime has on victims and their families, and are determined to put a stop to violent offences that involve knives. It is essential that offenders serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes – helping to protect the public and giving victims confidence that justice has been served. Parliament has provided courts with the powers they need to effectively deal with the range of offences and offenders which come before them. Where someone is actually harmed by a knife or offensive weapon, there are a range of offences that the person may be charged with, such as causing grievous bodily harm. These can result in lengthy sentences, including life imprisonment. For offenders aged 18 and over who bring a knife or another weapon to the scene of a murder with the intention of using it, courts will consider a minimum term spent in custody of at least 25 years.

For being in possession of a knife or offensive weapon, the maximum penalty is 4 years’ imprisonment. Over half (57%) of offenders cautioned or convicted of this offence for the first time received a custodial sentence in 2019 in comparison to a third (34%) ten years earlier. In 2015, we introduced minimum custodial sentences for repeat knife possession and offences that involve threatening with a weapon. Adults face a minimum of 6 months’ imprisonment whilst young people aged 16 or 17 face a minimum 4-month Detention and Training Order. Since the introduction of the minimum custodial term people caught carrying a knife or offensive weapon for a second time are now more likely than ever before to receive a custodial sentence – in 2019, 86% of offenders received a custodial sentence for repeat possession offences.

When sentencing, the courts consider the full circumstances of the offence and offender and must follow any relevant sentencing guidelines produced by the independent Sentencing Council. The guidelines are clear that for any offence the use of a weapon will be treated as an aggravating factor meriting an increased sentence.

While judicial discretion will be retained, in the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill the government is amending the criteria for passing a sentence below the minimum term to seek to ensure that courts depart from the minimum sentence only in exceptional circumstances.

As an additional tool police will be able to use to help steer young people and adults away from knife crime and serious violence, the government introduced Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs) through the Offensive Weapons Act 2019. Breaching an order can result in up to two years in prison. KCPOs will be piloted by the London Metropolitan Police.

In the PCSC Bill currently before Parliament the government has also introduced Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs). These will give the police powers to make it easier to stop and search those already convicted of knife and offensive weapon offences. A person who is subject to an order will know that if they persist in carrying a weapon, there is a greater chance they will be searched, detected and arrested.

Through the Prime Minister’s Crime and Justice Task Force, the government has made it clear that the focus on enforcement must be matched with a focus on prevention and early intervention. To help drive the cross government strategic response to serious violence we are taking action across a range of services including children’s social care, education, and investing £200 million in a Youth Endowment Fund, to ensure those most at risk are given the opportunity to turn away from violence and lead positive lives. From 2019 to 2022, this government will have provided over £242 million, through the Serious Violence Fund, to address the drivers of serious violence at the local level and significantly bolster the police response in 18 police force areas most affected by serious violence across England and Wales.

Police funding is increasing and on 4 February 2021, the government published a total police funding settlement of up to £15.8 billion in 2021/22, an increase of up to £636 million compared to 2020/21. Across England and Wales, we are also recruiting 20,000 additional police officers by the end of March 2023 – the biggest recruitment drive in decades.

Ministry of Justice

This response was given on 1 June 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.