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

Sajid Javid

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

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”:

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

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us