New knife crime orders could see young people banned from Camden
Concerns that measures will "exacerbate discriminatory policing"
25 July, 2021 — By Isabelle Stanley
NEW powers to tackle knife crime are being trialled in Camden – but charities have called them a blunt tool which will “exacerbate discriminatory policing”.
The incoming Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs) will give the Met the power to ban people over the age of 12 from going to some areas and meeting certain people, and to restrict their use of the internet.
They can be served even if the individual has no criminal record, and rely on police recommendation and then court approval. Breaking the rules can lead to two-year prison sentences.
The new orders have been likened to the old ASBOs which Camden famously used enthusiastically when they were first introduced in the mid-2000s.
Emmanuelle Andrews, the policy and campaigns officer at human rights organisation Liberty, said: “The standard of proof needed to impose a KCPO is extremely low, and yet the orders themselves impose sweeping restrictions and surveillance on people’s lives. This means that more and more young people will face massive intrusions into their daily lives and will face disproportionately high penalties if they breach conditions.”
She added: “Knife Crime Prevention Orders are a blunt tool which will not only exacerbate discriminatory policing, with the effects falling hardest on people and children of colour, but also potentially exacerbate the very problems they are seeking to solve.”
Ms Andrews said money would be better spent investing in communities, adding: “That means moving away from ever-expanding discriminatory police powers, and instead investing in things like mental health care, housing, education and youth services.”
Patrick Green, chief executive officer of the Ben Kinsella Trust, which campaigns against knife crime in the name of the Islington teenager who was stabbed in 2008, warned that the orders will impose serious restrictions on children’s lives and are too similar to ASBOs, which he said had led to too many young people going to prison for breaches.
“The challenge is not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Mr Green.
“If KCPOs are going to work they have to be proven to be a preventative measure, and not just a civil order to criminalise young people and increase stop-and-search, or be used disproportionately against BAME people.”
John Kilvington, chairman of the stop-and-search monitoring group in Camden, said: “The fear is that people will be identified wrongly and will be stopped as a result of that unfairly.”
But Assistant Chief Inspector Richard Berns said there were positives to the orders and that individuals would be helped into specified classes, activities, or meetings.
He added: “The more exciting side of the orders is saying: ‘You will do this, it’s good for you, you will turn up to football training’.” The orders act as a “carrot-shaped stick”, said ACI Berns, adding that he hoped they would provide new opportunities for young people caught up in bad behaviour.
“It gives them a get-out clause, it removes peer pressure. If they can say, ‘I’ve got to go here because of this order’, it’s empowering them to do it,” he said.
ACI Berns said that each of the Basic Command Units in London will be “identifying people they think will benefit from these orders, to keep them and everyone around them safe”, but added: “Not everyone in a gang is a knife carrier, for example, so we would have to have specific intel that someone is habitually carrying a knife.”
The trial of KCPOs will run for 14 months. If successful, they will be rolled out across the UK.