offensive weapons act, sajid javid
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The Offensive Weapons Act is here, which Home Secretary Sajid Javid says will give the police “extra powers” to tackle knife crime

The Offensive Weapons Act has received Royal Assent, bringing in new measures that increase law enforcement’s response to violent crime.

The Act will make it illegal to possess dangerous weapons in private, including knuckledusters, zombie knives and death star knives, and will make it a criminal offence to dispatch bladed products sold online without verifying the buyer is over 18.

The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is also providing additional support to the police through Knife Crime Prevention Orders. These Orders are being described as a deterrent to those vulnerable to becoming involved in knife crime. They are meant to enable the courts to place restrictions on individuals to help the police manage those at risk in the community.

Guidance on the process for Knife Crime Prevention Orders will be published, including operational guidance to police forces, ahead of a pilot in London.

Sajid Javid, Home Secretary said:

“As Home Secretary, I’m doing everything in my power to tackle the scourge of serious violence. Our new Offensive Weapons Act is a central part of this.

“These new laws will give police extra powers to seize dangerous weapons and ensure knives are less likely to make their way onto the streets in the first place. The Act will also see the introduction of Knife Crime Prevention Orders – a power the police called for.

“As well as tough law enforcement, it’s hugely important we continue our work to steer young people away from a life of crime in the first place.”

However, some view these legislative attempts to stop knife crime as shallow.

Professor Dermot P J Walsh, in Criminal Justice Notes, said of Sajiv Javid’s strategy:

“The new measures bear all the hallmarks of a hastily compiled initiative driven by a desire to be seen to be responding to the media generated “crisis”, rather than a considered and coherent policy designed to address the social problems provoking the increased possession of knives by young people.

“There is a very real risk that the proposed orders will be deployed in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner, thereby fuelling those problems and accentuating the already dangerous levels of alienation prevalent among some disadvantaged and ethnic minority communities.

“Critically, they are not confined to persons who are convicted of unlawful possession of knives, or associated knife crime.

“They will extend to any person as young as 12 whom the police believe is carrying a knife or whom they suspect of being habitual knife carriers.”

The Act includes a number of other measures to tackle serious violence, including:

  • A ban on the possession, manufacture and sale of rapid firing rifles and bump stocks, which increase a rifle’s rate of fire. The ban on the manufacture and sale of these weapons has now come into force with immediate effect
  • A ban on selling bladed products to a residential address without age verification
  • Updating the definition of flick knives to reflect changing weapon designs and banning private possession of flick knives and gravity knives
  • Changing the legal definition for threatening someone with an offensive weapon to make prosecutions easier
  • Banning the sale of corrosive products to under 18s
  • Making it an offence to possess a corrosive substance in a public place

The government will also consult on guidance for some of the new measures in the Act and engage with businesses and industry on how the legislation will affect them before it comes into force.

The Offensive Weapons Act and strong law enforcement form part of the government’s Serious Violence Strategy.

Recently the government launched a £200 million 10-year Youth Endowment Fund to create a generational shift in violent crime. There is also an ongoing consultation on a new ‘public health duty’ which is intended to help spot the warning signs that a young person could be in danger.

The Children’s Society and Just for Kids Law commented:

“In order to tackle the roots of youth violence, the government should focus on early intervention.

“In order to do this, the Home Office need to acknowledge the impact of the loss of youth services across the country. The £51 million packet of measures announced in the Serious Violence Strategy amounts to an eighth of the total reduction in funding to youth services since 2010.

“Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see a resurgence of youth services and diversionary activities as local government are facing a deficit in their budgets for children and young people’s services of £3 billion over the next five years.”

After the pilot for Knife Crime Prevention Orders launches in London at an unconfirmed date, the impact on serious crime will set a precedent for the next strategic move.

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