Knife crime orders may 'exacerbate' community relations, warns ADCS

By Derren Hayes

| 30 September 2019

Tough new laws to tackle knife crime could harm relationships between police and local communities and fail to properly consider the needs of vulnerable groups of young people, children's services leaders have warned.

The ADCS is concerned the use of knife crime prevention orders could harm community relations. Picture: Brian Jackson/Adobe Stock

In its response to the Home Office consultation on knife crime prevention orders (KCPO) guidance, the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) welcomed the government's efforts to prevent harm, but said orders may fail to do this.

Under the proposals, KCPOs could be imposed on any person aged 12 or over if police suspect they are carrying a knife or against those with a previous knife crime conviction.

The courts could impose curfews, stop people associating with certain people and also restrict movement detailing which parts of the country cannot be visited.

However, the ADCS response states: "We do not believe KCPOs amount to early intervention and may even serve to exacerbate the strained relationship between the police and some local communities."

The association also warned that it was "unclear" if an equality impact assessment had been undertaken on the policy nor what measures would be put in place to prevent the use of KCPOs increasing disproportionality in the criminal justice system - half of young people in youth custody are from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

"It is difficult to disagree with moves to stop children and young people either being seriously injured or prevented from committing very serious crimes but the ability to seek an order with absolute proof of knife carrying feels inherently disproportionate as does the concept of a preventative measure that criminalises children and young people for a breach," the response states.

The ADCS wants the guidance to include an "unequivocal duty" on organisations applying for orders to make a referral to children's social care if a child is under 18, to avoid more young people being drawn into the justice system.

It also called for guidance to include details of circumstances in which it is deemed appropriate to seek an order without "tangible evidence" of knife carrying.

It also criticised the lack of detail on who will monitor, commission and fund prevention and rehabilitation measures attached to orders, and warned that local authority and youth offending team support has been severely affected by funding cuts.

The guidance currently fails to sufficiently recognise children's status as a child, instead treating them as "mini adults", the response states.

In addition, the ADCS is seeking discussion with the Home Office over the appropriateness of orders being placed on children in care and whether additional safeguards may be required.

Earlier this month, an alliance of youth justice groups, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ), called on the Home Office to develop separate and distinct guidance for the use of KCPOs on children to ensure their welfare is protected.

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