Knife Crime Prevention Orders would only harm the fight against violent crime

Posted by Rosalind Comyn on 06 Feb 2019

KCPOs fail to address the root causes of violence and will likely exacerbate the conditions conductive to it.

Today, the House of Lords will debate the Government’s proposed Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs). Introduced last week as an eleventh hour amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill, this is the first time that Parliament will have an opportunity to scrutinise the dangerous and ill-thought-out proposal.

KCPOs would give police expansive powers to impose incredibly onerous restrictions on people, including children as young as twelve, and risk fast-tracking them into the criminal justice system if they fail to comply. As Liberty outlines in our briefing published today, the orders give rise to profound human rights concerns.

First, the standard of proof that needs to be satisfied for a KCPO to be imposed is extremely low. An order could be imposed where it is believed to be more likely than not that they have carried a bladed object in the last two years.

This leaves ample scope for orders to be imposed based on considerations such as where a person lives, where they go to school, or who they are friends with; all of which may be crude proxies for race or socio-economic status.

Secondly, KCPOs allow staggeringly punitive and open-ended restrictions to be imposed on where people go, who they see, when they can be in public, what they watch and how they express themselves online. The amendment gives police officers alarmingly wide discretion as regards the nature and severity of the constraints imposed.

Thirdly, these orders may be accompanied by heavy handed surveillance to monitor people’s compliance, such as heightened stop and search. This risks exacerbating the over-policing of BAME communities, which would have deep and enduring effects for communities and their trust in police.

Finally, breaching the terms of a KCPO, or even failing to notify the police of your name or address, could be sanctioned with a prison sentence of up to two years. This flies in the face of due process – eroding the presumption of innocence and criminalising, by stealth, innocuous conduct. The effect can only be to funnel more children and young people into the criminal justice system, with potentially devastating effects on their future.

The Government’s own Serious Violence Strategy recognised the importance of prevention to steer “young people away from crime and putting in place measures to tackle the root causes”.  Not only will KCPOs fail to address the root causes of violence, they will likely exacerbate the conditions conductive to it. Not even a sticking plaster, they rub salt in a wound.

Liberty calls on Peers to oppose this amendment and urges the Government to think again.

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