A barrister nails exactly why we should all worry about Sajid Javid’s knife ASBOs

Sajid Javid
Emily Apple

On 31 January, home secretary Sajid Javid announced how he plans to tackle knife crime. Javid wants to introduce “knife crime prevention orders” (KCPOs). Children as young as 12 could receive an order, and anyone breaching one could face up to two years in jail.

Critics of the scheme, including Labour MP Sarah Jones, say it’s “flawed” and “disproportionate”. Even justice secretary David Gauke thinks it’s a bad idea. He said in November 2018 that the orders could:

accelerate the criminalisation of young people

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But a barrister has taken to Twitter to really nail the problems with Javid’s scheme.

“The devil is in the detail”

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner pointed out that, while “knife crime is a problem”, the “devil is in the detail”:

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And the detail doesn’t look good for anyone concerned about civil liberties.

“Beyond reasonable doubt”

If you commit a crime in the UK, the prosecution has to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that you are guilty of that crime. This ensures a high level of proof is necessary for a conviction.

But as Wagner highlights, this high standard of evidence won’t apply to KCPOs:

In other words, KCPOs replace “beyond reasonable doubt” with “on the balance of probabilities” – and however a court wants to interpret such an ambiguous term. Wagner believes that the lower level of evidence needed will lead to the police pursuing KCPOs rather than criminal charges:

Does the punishment fit the crime?

As Wagner points out, there’s a further problem with the type of penalties that can be imposed. These range from curfews to social media bans. All these punishments can be meted out without the burden of proof needed for a criminal conviction:

And if any of these conditions are breached, the person can go to prison:

A 12-year-old, meanwhile, could end up with a two-year sentence for breaching a KCPO. Wagner further states that:

And he says that, particularly in regard to children:

Human rights

Wagner sees the potential for human rights violations in the restrictions that can be imposed under KCPOs. As he states:

This is an important point considering the implications it has for limiting freedom of speech:

And Wagner also highlights a huge problem with preventing children from using social media:

In short, this is a draconian piece of legislation that rips up the standard of proof for a criminal conviction. It imposes severe restrictions on children’s lives with the threat of imprisonment should they fail to keep to the conditions. This legislation is also ripe for abuse, potentially leading to kids being criminalised and locked up without having committed a crime.

It’s down to all of us to oppose it and to tell Javid that we won’t stand by and let him tear up our human rights.

Featured image via Flickr/Jeon Han

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