On 7 July, the government announced that London’s Metropolitan Police will begin trialling new Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs). The pilot will last for 14 months. Thereafter, the Home Office will review the results before deciding whether to roll out KCPOs across England and Wales. The Home Office states that KCPOs are intended to “turn young people away from a life of crime and protect them from potential exploitation from criminal gangs”. But campaigners have raised concerns that rather than protecting them, the new orders will enable further surveillance and criminalisation of vulnerable young people who already experience over-policing.
What are Knife Crime Prevention Orders?
A KCPO is a civil order that gives police the power to impose restrictions on anyone they suspect may be carrying a knife, has a history of carrying one, or has been convicted of a knife-related offence. Targeted at young people, police can impose orders on children as young as 12 years old. Conditions can include social media bans and curfews. Orders can remain in place for a maximum of two years. Failure to comply with orders could result in criminal charges – along with a prison sentence. The maximum term could be two years.
According to the Home Office, courts can also authorise “positive intervention, such as educational courses, sports club referrals, relationship counselling, anger management, mentoring and drug rehabilitation”. However, grassroots organisation No More Exclusions has said that it does “not believe the Home Office’s claim that KCPOs will be ‘preventative rather than punitive’ or that they will help reduce serious youth violence”. Instead, the group argues that:
KCPOs will be yet another tool used by the State to pretend it can police its way out of multiple crises for which it is solely responsible.
Criminalising young people
In February 2019, 31 organisations wrote a joint letter urging lawmakers to scrap plans for Knife Crime Prevention Orders. Campaigners warned that the “flawed and disproportionate” civil order would push more children and young people into the criminal justice system. The letter stated:
Children and young people carry knives for complex reasons, including fear for their safety.
Effective prevention means dealing with that complexity, and investing in organisations and programmes rooted in the communities suffering the most.
KCPOs will serve as a distraction and as a tool for racial profiling for children as young as 12 many of whom are already at the margins.
The same children and young people are paying the highest price for years of state neglect, educational and social exclusion, austerity, racial capitalism and societal violence, not to mention the effects of a deliberately poorly managed and ongoing global pandemic.
Expanding the youth prison population
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