The latest figures show that knife crime in England and Wales had risen by 21% to 37,443 offences in the last year which is the highest level that it has been in seven years. In response to this new recommendation from the Sentencing Council published on Thursday 1st March 2018 state that the first consideration for a court when assessing punishment for anyone over 18 caught with a “bladed article” in a public place should be a custodial sentence of 6 months. The law already states that a court MUST impose a sentence of at least 6 months imprisonment as a statutory minimum where this is a second relevant offence. A relevant offence being a previous conviction of possession/threats with a knife or offensive weapon.
It should be noted that the starting point of 6 months in custody is for just carrying a bladed article, and sentences for threatening with a bladed article can again be more serious. There are several Legal Authorities on the subject of “bladed article” including a butter knife, with no cutting edge and no point is a bladed article; (Booker v DPP 169 J.P. 368, DC).
These new guidelines will come in to force on the 1st June 2018. Sentencing Council member Rosina Cottage said: “Too many people in our society are carrying knives. If someone has a knife on them, it only takes a moment of anger or drunkenness for it to be taken out and for others to be injured or killed. These new guidelines give courts comprehensive guidance to ensure that sentences reflect the seriousness of offending.”
A further addition to the guidelines is that acid has now been listed as a potentially dangerous weapon for the first time. This is a response to the recent rise in number of people who have had corrosive substances thrown over them.
The guideline was subject to a public consultation with some consultees asking for further guidance as to in what circumstances it would be unjust to impose the statutory minimum. As a result, additional guidance has been included to state “In considering whether a statutory minimum sentence would be ‘unjust in all of the circumstances’, the court must have regard to the particular circumstances of the offence and the offender. Factors which increase the seriousness of the crime and are likely to increase the sentence include whether the offence was committed at a school, prison, or other place where vulnerable people are likely to be present. Attempts to dispose of evidence and whether the offence was commissioned under the influence of alcohol or drugs may also increase the sentence.
Factors which would reduce the seriousness or reflecting personal mitigation include whether the Defendant has any previous convictions, the age/lack of maturity of an offender and whether the Defendant co-operated with the Police.
A defendant is entitled to be acquitted on an offence contrary to section Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 1988, if he shows on the balance of probabilities that either: