New stop and search powers for convicted knife criminals

Police are to be given new, personalised stop and search powers targeted at known knife criminals under plans outlined by the Government today (September 14).

Sep 14, 2020
By Tony Thompson

The Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) are designed to ensure repeat offenders are more likely to be caught and put in prison.

SVROs could apply to those previously convicted of carrying a knife or an offensive weapon, including those who have received non-custodial sentences such as community orders or suspended sentences.

The orders will be imposed by a court, which can also decide on the length of the order.

Officers could then stop and search those who are subject to an SVRO to check if they are unlawfully carrying a knife or offensive weapon again.

If caught and convicted a second time, offenders could expect to receive a custodial sentence under the existing ‘two strikes’ legislation brought in by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

The new orders, which build on existing stop and search powers, will help the police to better target the small minority of persistent offenders who repeatedly flout the law.

The proportion of offenders who have already committed one or more previous knife and offensive weapons possession offences has risen from 20 per cent in the year ending March 2010, to 29 per cent in year ending March 2020.

Crime and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “Knife crime has a devastating effect on young lives and our neighbourhoods. Our ambition is for these new powers to transform the way stop and search is used by targeting the small number of the most serious and persistent criminals.

“The law-abiding majority should not have to live in fear, which is why are taking action across all fronts to keep them safe.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for serious violent crime, Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire, said: “We welcome this consultation and the opportunity it gives communities and partners to contribute their thoughts on the proposed power.

“We know that it is only by listening and working together that we can bring about the sustained changes needed to tackle the harms of knife-crime.”

The Home Office aim is for SVROs to help the police to take an intelligence-based, targeted approach to those who pose the most serious threat – keeping communities safe and strengthening police-community relations.

The Home Office has also launched a public consultation on the design of SVROs. It will run for eight weeks until November 8 and seek views on how SVROs could work, including monitoring and reporting requirements to ensure transparency and accountability.

The orders, which were a manifesto commitment, were proposed by the Centre for Social Justice in a 2018 report.

Andy Cook, chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice, said: “This consultation on SVROs is an important step in the right direction. SVROs send a strong message that violence and carrying weapons can and will be stopped.

“It is also about understanding the need to step in and help those caught up in violence to turn away from gangs and seek help. This is both tough and compassionate and shows that decisive action is being taken to put an end to violence.

“Our research tells us that these measures are supported by the great majority of people living in some of our most deprived communities, who want to see the scourge of knife crime and the routine carrying of weapons brought to an end.”

SVROs will complement Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs), which will be available to the courts when the police believe a person aged 12 or over is regularly carrying a knife, or upon conviction for an offence involving a knife or violence.

KCPOs are intended to be preventative, to help people avoid being drawn into knife crime and include positive requirements such as attendance at educational courses or drug rehabilitation.

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