Figures show that a knife or blade was used in a crime every 16 minutes on average last year, not only that but knife crime has substantially risen by 11% and is nearing the levels of 5 years ago according to Home Office Reports.
This article explores some of the underlying issues relating to the spike in knife crime.
The rise in knife crime doesn’t necessarily mean a strong causal link between gang culture but there is a fear that our next generation of youths are being accustomed to carrying a knife in the hope that they are ‘protecting themselves, but arguably today's youngsters are a product of their environment and feel they need that protection to survive.
Many of the crimes turned into horrific murders. In a recent knife attack on the 22nd June 2020 in Reading, 3 members of the public were killed and a further 3 hospitalised. Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke about the issue in the House of Commons and described it as a ‘senseless attack’.
Arguably it’s a culture that has been created but this is the time where a deeper look into the issues can help our next generation be brought up to be responsible adults and not killers in the making.
A recent study conducted shows youths stating that they felt ‘confident, like superman’ when they carried a knife. They called it their ‘protection tool’, claiming that they ‘would not leave their house without clothes so why would they leave without a knife’.
Many of the youths disregarded our justice system and claimed that ‘it doesn’t rehabilitate them, suggesting that if they were put back out on the streets then there would be the same problem’. Many of the youth insisted that they carried knives because they were scared and there is always danger, so at any point, they may feel they need to pull one out.
So what can we do to minimise the risk of knife crime and its connection to crime at an early stage? Firstly, the average youth carrying a knife has obtained it from their mother’s kitchen drawer, parents should hold responsibility for checking from time to time on their children.
The solution is not a prison but unfortunately, it is the cost they could incur. It is important that today’s generation is aware and educated to stop carrying knives before the problem even starts. Volunteering and learning new skills can give the youth a route out.
Parents and the police worry that this could be the start of a vicious cycle. The more stories and headlines portrayed by the media about knife crime are leading to more teenagers carrying knives to protect themselves. Although it can be seen that this problem can exist for many reasons, for example in less privileged areas individuals may feel ‘more powerful, confident and in control’.
You could be looking at up to 4 years imprisonment for possessing a knife. Case law such as ‘Povey’ is applied when sentencing an offender. Carrying a knife in public is a serious offence and is punished with severe sentences to protect the public, it is to act as a deterrent. The court states that we must consider the risk of harm that may foreseeably be caused.
The best advice would therefore simply be - DON’T carry it.
Knife crime figures do not illustrate a clear image, for example, whilst the number of people prosecuted for carrying knives is on the increase, it is suggested that the annual number of stabbings has been falling at times. Although the question about knife crime persists, statistics only show a small percentage that die in violent incidents.
The fear of knives has grown and with it, the number of young people that carry knives for protection has increased. The frequent reoccurring statement that carrying a knife provides them with safety.
The term ‘knife’ itself is greatly used in the media and its exact meaning remains unclear, it potentially covers many offences confusing the outside of its definition and purpose of its occurrence. A great deal of media reporting biased comments and largely due to a lack of inconsistent data on knife crime. Even though it is portrayed that many young people carry knives and kill each other, the statistics show that the number of knife victims has been constant.
The downside of immense media reporting is the difficulty in the effects such as normalising it. It places thoughts in teenagers' minds that having a knife on them is becoming a fashion statement and having a huge effect on their self-fulfilling prophecy. As suggested earlier getting hold of a knife is fairly simple, many being able to obtain it from their kitchen homes.
There is however a move towards policies being created to help in the reduction, for example, a £3 million three-year advertising operation, which was planned by youths for young people to get the significance across that carrying knives can shatter lives and families.
Although the relative strength of these policies being introduced increases penalties to demonstrate the big effect of knife crime. On the other hand, certain individuals will have no fear of spending time in prison, for them as suggested in a documentary on the Nottingham spike in crime, it is all about reputation, ego and revenge. Young youths fear other teenagers more than they fear the police and more offenders are being jailed for carrying knives.
The defendant is entitled to be acquitted if it can be shown on the balance of probabilities that:
The defendant does not discharge the burden of showing good reason just by providing an explanation that is not contradicted by prosecution evidence. A defence put forward will always be tested by robust cross-examination.
Successful cases have also come to light where forgetfulness has allowed a successful appeal but ONLY in circumstances where the reason for having the knife in the first place was genuine and allowed by law. Case law such as Chahal v DPP allowed the defendant to successfully appeal against conviction for possessing a bladed article.
The defendant had used the knife at work and forgotten to leave it there. It was held that the appeal succeeded as he was seen as a truthful witness –forgetfulness, without some other good reason to support it, will not of itself entitle the accused to the benefit of the defence.
The defendant needs to go further and demonstrate the reason why the knife was there in the first place. The justices in the case appeared to have been misled into thinking that the casual nature of the appellant's work deprived him of good reason without more when the real question was whether the appellant genuinely had a good reason for having the knife and then genuinely forgotten about it; and that in so far as he had the article with him when recollection was restored he still had a good reason for having it with him.