New Guidance on Knife Crime

New legislation comes into force on the 17th July 2015 designed to tackle rising knife crime. Anyone convicted of an offence involving possession of a knife for a second time will face a minimum prison sentence of 6 months.

Minimum sentences are not a new thing. Minimum prison sentences already exist for those convicted of house burglary for a third time and for some drug and firearm offences.

The new law has been brought in to address the public perception that the carrying of a knife has become routine for certain sections of society.

The minimum sentence applies to those aged 16 and over convicted of a second or subsequent offence of possession of a knife or offensive weapon.

A previous conviction for any knife offence, whether it be possession of a bladed article, threatening with a knife and possession of an offensive weapon contrary to Section 1A of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 will count as a ‘first strike’. It is interesting to note that even if the first offence is committed outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales the legislation will still apply.

The rules vary slightly depending on the age of the offender. Those aged 18 or over when convicted will receive a minimum custodial sentence of at least 6 months imprisonment whereas for those aged 16 or 17 will receive minimum 4 month detention and training order.

Although the legislation requires that a custodial sentence is imposed the court still has a discretion and may decline to impose the sentence if it would be unjust to do so. The court are entitled to take into account a number of factors when considering if it would be unjust and these include the circumstances surrounding the new offence, the previous offence, or the offender would make it unjust in all circumstances to do so.

It’s clear that there must be exceptional circumstances to avoid the court imposing an immediate prison sentence for a second offence but there may well be grounds which a skilled advocate could argue to persuade the court that it would be unjust. Advocates at Emery Johnson Astills have considerable experience in all types of advocacy including persuasive submissions at sentence.

Should you require any assistance in relation to this new legislation or any other matter please do not hesitate in contacting us at either our Leicester or Loughborough offices.