Knife Crime in UK

Possession of knives continues to be an issue for criminal courts to grapple with.  Politicians often have knee jerk reactions to the news of some poor soul being the subject of a violent knife attack.  I always remember the line from the Guy Ritchie film, ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’:

Guns for show, knives for a pro.

Sharp bladed articles have long been recognised by the law as illegal and s.139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 made it an offence to have a knife in a public place or if carried with an offensive intent, an offence of being in possession of an offensive weapon.  The clear danger with knives is their stealthy lethality.  Many stabbing victims often recall that it is some time before they realise they have been stabbed and it is often only on the sight of excessive bleeding.  It is for this reason that the ‘Lock, Stock’ quote has resonance with those attempting to manage the use of knives and in particular the urge for persons to take them onto the street.  In my role as a barrister in Ipswich and beyond, I often encounter such cases.

What often surprises me under both my guise as a prosecution or a defence barrister, is the amount of people that produce substantial knives akin to machete’s or samurai swords.  Given their sale is now tightly regulated, it is still all too common that persons produce such items in times of distress and during the course of arguments.  It is the intention of the courts and the government to dissuade offenders from coming out of home with knives.  The fact that a party has a knife when a fight occurs increases the risk that serious harm will be caused by its potential use.  Sir Igor Judge in the case of R v Povey [2008] EWCA Crim 1261 stated:

"Every weapon carried about the streets, even if concealed from sight, even if not likely to be or intended to be used, and even if not used represents a threat to public safety and public order." (paragraph 3.)

"In our view, it is important for confidence in the criminal justice system that the man or woman caught in possession of a knife or offensive weapon without reasonable excuse should normally be brought before the courts and prosecuted.“

"For the time being, whatever other considerations may arise in the individual case, sentencing courts must have in the forefront of their thinking that the sentences for this type of offence should focus on the reduction of crime, including its reduction by deterrence, and the protection of the public.“

"Even if the offender does no more than carry the weapon, even when the weapon is not used to threaten or cause fear, when considering the seriousness of the offence courts should bear in mind the harm which the weapon might foreseeably have caused. So the message is stark. This is a serious offence and it should be treated with the seriousness that it deserves."

Bodmin Magistrates’ Court last month sentenced the UK’s number one surfer, Russ Winter.  Mr. Winter sought to scare off some individuals and doing so grabbed an ornamental sword he was given in 2006 in the O’Neil Highland Open.  He received a six month suspended prison sentence.  R v Povey remains the leading case on sentence and was lately re-affirmed by the Court of Appeal.

There is a defence to having a bladed article in your possession.   If you can demonstrate that you reasonably held the item for a legitimate purpose, then the jury or magistrates view the facts in your favour.  Clients often say they need the knife for work or fishing.  There are occasions when this will work, but often such excuses will not wash.  For instance, I represented a gentleman last week that stated the knife was in the car centre console for work.  He had not been at work for over 24 hours and as such, he had no need to store the knife away from the rest of his tools.

If you have been challenged by the police and would like some advice or representation on a private basis, call Marcus Croskell to discuss on 0843 886 2603 or email me.  

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