By Sara Chitseko:
The Home Office have announced that they will be piloting the use of Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs) in another useless attempt to reduce serious youth violence. The orders, being trialed by the London Met, can be imposed on any person aged 12 or over and will only result in an increased number of young people facing criminalisation.
It is astounding that the government continue to try and police their way out of a problem, which is a byproduct of their own hostile policies. Poverty, austerity and institutional racism are just some of the structural factors which lead to violence and KCPOs will only exacerbate these issues. It is also shocking that these orders can be imposed on children as young as 12, when they will clearly act as a funnel for young people into the criminal justice system.
The Home Office have claimed that the orders are “preventative rather than punitive,” where they are civil orders, rather than criminal (Home Office, 2020). However, given that courts can impose the order, even if a person is not caught with a knife and breaching an order is deemed a criminal offense, punishable by up to 2 years in prison, it is clear that the orders are “civil,” rather than “criminal” in name only.
Just last month in February, the Met removed more than 370 names from the gangs matrix - a police list of alleged “gang” members. This was largely due to community pressure over it being discriminatory and racist, criminalising young people, many of whom had never committed a violent offence, and who had been victims of violence themselves. While this progress is welcome, we have to ask to what end, when KCPOs essentially serve the same function.
Databases and civil/criminal orders will never be part of the solution to serious violence where they do nothing to address the root causes which allow violence to manifest. If the Home Office really wanted to take responsibility for rising knife crime, they could begin by interrogating how their own policies perpetuate violence, instead of punishing children who are victims of violence by the state, long before they find themselves committing violent acts unto others.
Home Office, 2020. Introduction Of Knife Crime Prevention Orders. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/news/introduction-of-knife-crime-prevention-orders> [Accessed 19 March 2020].