Abidemi Otunba-Baba

Knife crime is a persistent and worrying concern presently in the U.K., especially as it impacts particularly upon young people and the disadvantaged.  Over the years, various remedies have been introduced to curb this menace to life and the society in general.

Knife crime is any crime that involves a knife – regardless of whether the knife is used to injure someone.  A person can be found guilty of knife crime if they:

  • Carry a knife – carrying alone (even for protection) could mean that the individual could face up to 4 years imprisonment
  • Stab or slash someone and cause a physical injury
  • Threaten someone with a knife
  • Use a knife whilst committing another crime

It is illegal to carry a knife in the UK, and you can be arrested, charged, get a criminal record and/or face a prison term if the police search you and find a knife.

London’s Latest Knife Crime Statistics And Attacks

London’s knife crime has reached an epidemic and unprecedented levels, recording more than 30 deaths in the capital in the first half of the year 2019.  2018 was London’s bloodiest in almost 10 years, seeing the rise in knife crime escalating to a new level that does not look like abating. As of June 16 of 2019, there has been at least 31 fatalities from stabbing in different parts of the capital.

Recorded knife crime

In the year ending March 2018, there were around 40,000 (selected) offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales. This is the highest number in the eight-year series (from year ending March 2011) the earliest point for which comparable data are available. This is directly related with improvement in recording practices. (ONS, Crime in England and Wales: year ending December 2018, 25 April 2019).

Facts about knife crime:

London recorded the highest rate of 168 offences involving a knife per 100,000 population 2017/18, an increase of 26 offences per 100,000 population from 20016/17. Surrey had the lowest rate of 5 offences per 100,000 individuals (up by 1 from 2016/17.

London recorded the highest rate of 137 offences involving a knife per 100,000 population in 2016/17, an increase of 23 offences from 2015/16.

The BBC News reported that between September 2010-2011, there was a 10% increase from the previous year, in the number of reported robberies that involved the use of knives.

According to the  Youth Justice Board/Mori Survey, one in five 16-year old boys admitted to attacking someone with a knife, intending to cause serious harm in the process.

In the year ending March 2018, there were 21,044 disposals given for possession of a knife or offensive weapon. Juveniles (aged 10-17) were the offenders in most cases.  Being convicted of carrying a knife can lead to up to 4 years in jail.

Information on Joint Enterprise:

Put simply, Joint Enterprise means that if a young person’s presence, knowledge or actions lead to a serious crime such as murder, then that young person too could be charged for murder. Joint Enterprise can apply to anyone who was there at the time of the crime, or who did something that led to or helped a crime to be committed.

How Can Someone Avoid Being Charged Under Joint Enterprise?

  • Think about the people you socialise with and who your friends are.
  • Don’t walk around carrying weapons for yourself or anyone else for that matter.
  • Think about the consequences of your actions and be sure to understand what your friends get up to and the consequences of their actions too.

“People give all sorts of reasons why they carry knives, including protecting themselves.  But a Knife is not a weapon of defence, it’s a weapon of offence”

Karen McCluskey, Strathclyde Police

Stop and Search:

The police have the power to stop and search anyone at any time if they believe they might be carrying a weapon, drugs or stolen property or be involved in terrorism. The police can search an individual, their clothing, bags, other possessions and their vehicles. If a knife or other weapon is found, a person can be charged, regardless of why they were searched in the first place.

The law does not differentiate between carrying a knife for self-defence, or for the intention of doing harm. It is no defence to say you are just carrying it for protection – you are still committing a crime if one is found on you. Carrying a knife could mean that someone else could use it against the carrier – in other words, the carrier could be arming a potential attacker.

The police have the right to stop and search anyone they think might be carrying a knife. If they find one, a person can be sentenced to up to 4 years in jail and fined up to £5,000.

What Is A Gang?

The average age of homicide victims overall has been going down, with younger and younger victims” (Richard Garside)

A gang is defined as a group of people with a shared interest, or who share a common identity. A gang does not have to be involved in criminal activity, although when we hear the word ‘gang’ that is what we tend to think of.  Though it isn’t illegal to be a member of a gang, however, many young people will become involved in a crime through their allegiance to a gang as many gangs are involved in use of drugs, violence and dangerous weapons. According to Richard Garside, ”The average age of homicide victims overall has been going down, with younger and younger victims involved”.

Why Do Young People Join Gangs?

Most young people will join a violent gang in order to feel safer in their area, and to get protection from their rival gangs.  Some see it as a way of having power and control over others, while others will join because they have friends and family members who are also gang members.  Other reasons include the quest to make fast money, lack of engagement in anything useful or because joining could seem glamorous and earn them respect or recognition.

Meanwhile, some social commentators argue that young people join gangs because they don’t have any role models or support network from family or from the community.


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