On the 5th July 2021, certain provisions of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 come into force in specific areas for a period of 14 months. The area in question is the “metropolitan police district”, which consists of Greater London, excluding the City of London, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple.
The sections allow the making of a knife crime prevention order other than on conviction. Three conditions must be met:
an application has been made in accordance with section 15;
the court is satisfied that on at least two occasions, the defendant had a bladed article with them without good reason or lawful authority in a public place or school or further education premises;
the court must think it is necessary to make the order to protect the public from the risk of harm involving a bladed article, to protect any particular members of the public or to prevent the defendant from committing an offence involving a bladed article.
Section 15 sets out the requirements for the order. The application can be made by the police for the area where the defendant lives or is intending to go. When the application is made for a person under the age of 18, the youth offending team must be consulted.
A knife crime prevention order can also be made upon conviction under section 19. This section applies when a person over the age of 12 is convicted of an offence, and the court dealing with him is satisfied the offence is a relevant offence. The same three conditions apply when an application is made for an order without conviction, other than an application made by the prosecution rather than under section 15. Additionally, an order can only be made if it is on top of a sentence imposed for an offence or a conditional discharge. A relevant offence is one which involves violence, a bladed article was used by the defendant, or another, in the commission of the offence, or the defendant or another person who committed the offence was in possession of a bladed article at the time.
Section 20 requires the prosecution to consult the youth offending team before making an application under section 19, where the offender is under the age of 18.
An order may be reviewed periodically, the defendant having to attend court for it to take place. If the order is longer than a year, it has to be reviewed. Where the order is less than a year, it must be reviewed within the last four weeks. At the review, consideration will be given to whether the order should be varied or discharged.
An order can be varied by imposing additional prohibitions or requirements. A variation can only occur if it is necessary to protect the public (or any particular members of the public) from the risk of harm or prevent the defendant from committing an offence involving a bladed article.
It is possible to appeal against the making of an order to the Crown Court. A person who applies for an order under section 14 (otherwise than on conviction) may appeal to the Crown Court against a refusal to make the order. An appeal can also be made against a refusal to vary, renew or discharge the order.
Breach of an order can lead to imprisonment of up to two years. As well as prohibitions, the orders can impose positive requirements such as attendance on drug rehabilitation programmes, educational courses and relationship counselling. The intent is for the order to be preventative rather than a punishment, hence the positive requirements. Attention should be paid, therefore, to tailoring the requirements to the needs of the individual.
Examples of prohibitions could be non-association with named individuals, exclusion zones, and non-participation in specified activities. Care must be taken to ensure that prohibitions or requirements do not conflict with a defendant’s religious beliefs or work/educational commitments.
Orders last for a minimum of six months to a maximum of two years.
This pilot of the orders runs across London for 14 months; the government has already stated its intention to roll out the orders across England and Wales once the pilot has ended.
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