Posts Tagged ‘ knife crime ’


Who needs reasonableness!

Written by admin
November 22nd, 2018

We all know that knife crime is on the rise. Not to the levels of Victorian times, not to the levels of 1993, when criminal offences across the board were at their highest. In fact, knife crime is rising towards the levels experienced in 2010 and 2011.

It is obvious that the government wants to “do something”. Legislation imposing vaguely mandatory sentences on those convicted of carrying bladed articles or offensive weapons for a second time has been a future of the sentencing process for many years.

Not satisfied with this removal of discretion from the judiciary, the government now wishes to attack a different part of the criminal justice process.

Certainly, out of nowhere, there are calls for a re-evaluation of the old “stop and search” powers. This much malign and often inflammatory procedure has, in recent years, been kept in check by the requirement for police officers to have a “reasonable suspicion” before stopping or searching an individual. A number of members of the government are now suggesting that the requirement for a “reasonable suspicion” be removed.

Any action that can be carried out unreasonably, or without the use of reason, is obviously likely to lead to concerns and difficulties. Imagine that someone allegedly acting in “self-defence” did not have to show that they had acted “reasonably” just that they had acted in self-defence. What sort of mayhem might ensue?

Where the power to be used “unreasonably” is a coercive power, as in the case of stop and search, the perils for us all are enormous. Those of us who remember the Bristol riots around the Black and White Café, the Brixton riots of the early 1980’s and the Toxteth riot of similar vintage remember just how much violence and disorder ensued from the hatred and loathing that had built up after the misuse of “stop and search” powers.

If widespread civil disorder and a break down in the relationship between the police and the public are the price to be paid for this cack-handed attack on knife crime, it may be felt that the account would soon become unbalanced.

CARVING UP THE STATS

Written by admin
October 4th, 2018

There is a general perception throughout the Firm and indeed throughout the Country that knife crime has increased out of all proportion in the last 24 months.

Local and National papers and News websites are full of stories about stabbing, often between members of various teenage gangs. There is a sense that many muggings now involve not only a threat with but also a use of a knife.

Interesting then to see that this year’s knife crime statistics show that knife crime offences have risen to a level comparable to that recorded 8 years ago in 2010.

Of course, in 2010 there was clearly a sense that knife crime was a problem, but it certainly wasn’t getting the sort of attention that is now.

How is it then possible to equate the current knife crime phobia of the reality demonstrated by the statistics.

It seems clear that the truth of the matter here lies in the nature of the statistical recording. What amounts to a knife crime can be anything from the simply carrying of a knife in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse right through to the use of a knife to take the life of another. A far more relevant set of statistics might be there is a record of the use of knives in the commission of violent crime. The absence of statistics means that any projection here is no more than speculation, but there is a clear belief that if statistics were indeed focused on the use of knives in this way the 2018 figures would be stratospherically higher than those from 2010.

The weary use of statistics to bolster or justify yet another academic dissertation does nothing to help those of us dealing with the reality of crime on a day to day level. Sadly, its only statistics used in a meaningful way and drilled down to cut out as many variants as possible that they will even be of any use to policy and Law makers.

MANDATORY MADNESS

Written by Sian Hall
October 29th, 2017

As the Government chases new headlines for planning to impose mandatory six month terms of imprisonment for those carrying acid in a public place, for the second time we have to reflect on the real worth of this kind of sentence.

 

Mandatory sentencing is often not what it seems. Three years for a third strike burglar often means three years less 20% for those who admit the offences in early stage and can mean a lot less if there are special circumstances relating to there more to the offence.  The same is true for third strike Class A drug dealers.  Those found carrying knives in public for the second time should face a mandatory sentence of six months, but in reality this is a sentence that can be reduced to meet the justice of the case, depending on the circumstances of the offence or the client.   Presumably, acid carriers are likely to find themselves in the same position as their knife-wielding brethren.

 

Does the mandatory sentence then serve any real purpose? Are there any mandatory sentences that are not regularly devalued?   The argument must of course run that it is hard for governments to send out a message to members of the public who are likely to offend.  The announcement of six months in a prison for anybody committing a certain offence is an easy message that may well get across to more than most.  Of course,  the mandatory term also provides a thinking point for sentencing courts who might otherwise find themselves in a sea of inconsistency.  Nevertheless, the same sort of thinking point has been established for many offences by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, whose guidelines can be varied dependant on the social and legal landscape, without recourse to legislation.

 

It is worth reflecting that over the years the only two sentences that have remained largely unadulterated are life imprisonment for murderers and the mandatory driving ban for drink drivers. Odd bookends for a growing shelf of non-discretionary sentencing decisions.

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