Amendment 35

Offensive Weapons Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford:

Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford

35: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—“PART 1AKNIFE CRIME PREVENTION ORDERSKnife crime prevention orders made otherwise than on convictionKnife crime prevention order made otherwise than on conviction(1) A court may make a knife crime prevention order under this section in respect of a person aged 12 or over (the “defendant”) if the following conditions are met.(2) The first condition is that a person has, by complaint to the court, applied for a knife crime prevention order under this section in accordance with section (Requirements for application for order under section (Knife crime prevention order made otherwise than on conviction)).(3) The second condition is that the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that, on at least two occasions in the relevant period, the defendant had a bladed article with them without good reason or lawful authority—(a) in a public place in England and Wales,(b) on school premises, or(c) on further education premises.(4) In subsection (3) “the relevant period” means the period of two years ending with the day on which the order is made; but an event may be taken into account for the purposes of that subsection only if it occurred after the coming into force of this section.(5) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3), a person has good reason for having a bladed article with them in a place mentioned in that subsection if the person has the article with them in that place—(a) for use at work,(b) for educational purposes,(c) for religious reasons, or(d) as part of any national costume.(6) The third condition is that the court thinks that it is necessary to make the order—(a) to protect the public in England and Wales from the risk of harm involving a bladed article,(b) to protect any particular members of the public in England and Wales (including the defendant) from such risk, or(c) to prevent the defendant from committing an offence involving a bladed article. (7) A knife crime prevention order under this section is an order which, for a purpose mentioned in subsection (6)—(a) requires the defendant to do anything described in the order;(b) prohibits the defendant from doing anything described in the order.(8) See also—(a) section (Provisions of knife crime prevention order) (which makes further provision about the requirements and prohibitions which may be imposed by a knife crime prevention order under this section),(b) section (Requirements included in knife crime prevention order etc) (which makes further provision about the inclusion of requirements in a knife crime prevention order under this section), and(c) section (Duration of knife crime prevention order etc) (which makes provision about the duration of a knife crime prevention order under this section).(9) Section 127 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (time limits) does not apply to a complaint under this section.(10) In this section—“court”—(a) in the case of a defendant who is under the age of 18, means a magistrates’ court which is a youth court, and(b) in any other case, means a magistrates’ court which is not a youth court;“further education premises” means land used solely for the purposes of—(a) an institution within the further education sector (within the meaning of section 91 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992), or(b) a 16 to 19 Academy (within the meaning of section 1B of the Academies Act 2010),excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at the institution or the 16 to 19 Academy;“public place” includes any place to which, at the time in question, the public have or are permitted access, whether on payment or otherwise;“school premises” means any land used for the purposes of a school, excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at the school; and “school” has the meaning given by section 4 of the Education Act 1996.”Member’s explanatory statementThis Clause and the other amendments of the Minister to insert new Clauses after Clause 13 would make provision for knife crime prevention orders and interim knife crime prevention orders imposing requirements and prohibitions on defendants and subjecting them to certain notification requirements.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, the government amendments in this group introduce knife crime prevention orders. Noble Lords will recall that these amendments were debated in Grand Committee on 6 February but were withdrawn because it was clear that they did not attract universal support, as the procedural rules in Grand Committee require. The government amendments before us today are the same as those debated in Grand Committee. Given that we have already had a substantial debate on these new civil orders, I do not intend to go through every aspect of them. However, it is worth stating again why the Government have brought forward these measures and to summarise how they will work.

All noble Lords will appreciate that we face a significant increase in knife crime at present, particularly in London but also in other major cities and across the country. It is sad to say that hardly a day goes by without further horrific examples of the devastation that such crimes cause, not only to individual families but to entire communities. We must do everything we can to stop this increase in violent crime.

The latest police recorded crime figures published by the Office for National Statistics in January for the year ending September 2018 show that there have been close to 40,000 knife-related offences. This is an 8% increase compared to the previous year. The number of homicides where a knife or sharp instrument has been used has increased by 10% in the last year to 276 offences. Of all recorded homicides in the latest data, more than four in 10 involved a knife or a sharp instrument. Police-recorded offences involving the possession of an article with a blade or point rose by 18% to approaching 20,000 offences in the year ending September 2018. This rise was consistent with increases seen over the past five years and is the highest figure since the series began in March 2009.

It is vital that the police have the powers they need to prevent knife crime and protect the public from the devastating effects of violent crime on our streets. When we prosecute young people for knife crime, it is already too late for families when their sons and daughters are lying in hospital or dead on the street. This is tearing some of our communities apart and if there are measures available that might help to tackle this issue, then we must not hesitate to put them in place.

These new civil prevention orders will enable the police to more effectively manage those at risk of being drawn into trouble and help steer them away from crime, and the Government make no apologies for bringing them forward. The orders are aimed at three groups of people: young people who have been carrying a knife; habitual knife carriers of any age; and those who have been convicted of violent offences involving knives.

In the case of young people, the police may have intelligence that a young person routinely carries a knife but for a variety of reasons they have been unable to charge them with a possession offence. Before risky behaviour escalates, a KCPO, as they are called, could be in place to divert the person away from a life of prolific offending.

As I have indicated, people who the police deem to be habitual knife carriers could also be subject to a KCPO. This would include people who may have previous convictions for knife crime or where the police have intelligence that they regularly carry knives. The KCPO would enable the police to manage the risk of future offending in the community. This is the cohort that the police see as their main target for these orders. They estimate that there are about 3,000 habitual knife carriers across England and Wales, although that is not to say that all that cohort would be made subject to a KCPO.

It may be helpful if I explain briefly how the orders will work. An application for a KCPO can be made by a relevant chief officer of police to a magistrates’ court or, in the case of young people, the youth court. A court may make an order only if it is satisfied that the defendant had a bladed article without good reason in a public place or education premises on at least two occasions in the preceding two years, and that the order is necessary to protect the public or prevent the defendant committing an offence involving knives. A KCPO can also be made on conviction where the defendant is convicted of a relevant offence and, again, the court thinks the order is necessary to protect the public or prevent the defendant committing an offence involving knives.

A KCPO may require a defendant to do anything described in the order and/or prohibit the defendant doing anything described in the order. The KCPO can include any reasonable prohibition or requirement which the court is satisfied is necessary, proportionate and enforceable. An order could therefore include things such as curfews or restrictions on going to a particular place.

A KCPO can also include positive requirements, and we think these are particularly important. A positive requirement could be attending some form of knife awareness training or a programme to move young people away from knife crime. Some of these programmes are already being funded under the serious violence strategy, and we are keen to build on the excellent work that is already under way to help divert young people from violent crime and is often provided by groups which have first-hand experience of dealing with knife crime in their communities. Where a KCPO imposes such a requirement it must specify a person who is responsible for supervising compliance with the requirement. For instance, if the requirement is attendance at a knife awareness intervention, the person designated to supervise compliance may be the youth worker providing the intervention.

KCPOs will have a maximum duration of two years and must be reviewed by the courts after 12 months. KCPOs issued to under-18s will be expected to be subject to more regular reviews, an issue which we will address in guidance. There are provisions for variation, renewal or discharge of KCPOs on application by the defendant or the police. There are also provisions for appeal against the order. Breach of the order, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence subject to a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

Young people are clearly an area of great concern to a number of noble Lords. The police tell us that the age at which people carry knives is getting lower. We also know from hospital data and from the police that younger and younger children are involved in knife crime as both victims and perpetrators. If we are serious about tackling the epidemic of knife crime on our streets, the measures we take must apply to young people.

I must point out that the civil orders available for dealing with sex offending apply to children as young as 10 and last for up to five years rather than the maximum of two years available under KCPOs. Likewise, the maximum penalties are up to five years in prison rather than the two years we have with KCPOs. I know that noble Lords might argue that sex offending is different and somehow more serious. I am not sure that argument is true given the number of knife-related deaths that we are now witnessing in our cities.

I know that noble Lords will also argue that it would be better to go the anti-social behaviour injunction route, which of course applies to children as young as 10. The argument here is that having contempt of court rather than a criminal offence for breach would make the orders more palatable because it would mean that children would not get a criminal record. The advice that we have had from police, some of which we heard yesterday at the round table, is I think advice that we should listen to very carefully. It is that making it a criminal offence to breach an order is important if we want the order to be taken seriously. I do, however, understand concerns about the application of these orders to young people. That is why we set the minimum age of 12, and that is why youth offender teams will need to be consulted on any orders against defendants under the age of 18. It is why we have said we will consult publicly on the guidance with community groups and youth organisations and others before these orders are brought into force.

This Government are determined to do all they can to protect the public and keep people safe. We must seize every opportunity to end the senseless cycle of violent crime that is corroding our streets. Knife crime prevention orders are not the complete answer to violent crime, but they most certainly will help. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I said a lot about knife crime prevention orders in Committee. Tonight I am going to focus on pre-conviction knife crime prevention orders. Despite the Government’s claims to the contrary, they will result in many young people being criminalised instead of being diverted away from the criminal justice system. How can we be so sure? Because they are almost a carbon copy of anti-social behaviour orders, which did exactly that—criminalised swathes of young people for breaching a civil order imposed on them on the balance of probabilities but where a breach of the order was a criminal offence, exactly the same as these provisions.

A court has to be satisfied only on the balance of probabilities that, on at least two occasions, the defendant had a bladed article with them without good reason or lawful authority in a public place on school or further education premises. If they were caught in possession of a knife, they could be prosecuted. This is not about young people being stopped and searched and being found with a knife. This is about hearsay evidence, information from informants, the police being tipped off that someone is a knife carrier. An interim order can even be imposed without the defendant’s having the chance to put his side of the story. Imposed on the balance of probabilities, a breach of the conditions can result in a criminal record and up to two years in prison.

These are anti-social behaviour orders reinvented. They are primarily aimed at young people, as young as 12. It may have been a long time ago, but we were all young once. Young people make mistakes; they can be reckless, forgetful, mischievous. The orders would impose, on people who are more chaotic than responsible adults, conditions such as: being at a particular place between particular times on particular days; being at a particular place between particular times on any day; presenting themselves to a particular person at a place where they are required to be; participating in particular activities between particular times on particular days; prohibiting them from being in a particular place with particular people; participating in particular activities; using particular articles or having those articles with them. An order that imposes prohibitions can include exemptions to those prohibitions. They have to tell the police within three days if they use a name which has not previously been notified to the police, or they decide to live away from their home address for more than a month. What does,

“uses a name which has not previously been notified to the police”,

even mean? What if their schoolmates give them a nickname that they have become known by? Do they breach the order if they use that name? The young person is going to need a PA and carry a list of conditions with them at all times which they have to constantly refer to, to make sure that they do not breach the order.

Children are children. These orders can be imposed on young people who have never been in trouble with the police and have never been convicted of a criminal offence, and they could be sentenced to custody because they did not turn up for football practice as the order required them to do or because they were told not to associate with certain people but those people kept following them around. It would be easy for me or other noble Lords, let alone a child, to breach some of these conditions if they were imposed on us, and these orders would last a minimum of six months and up to two years.

The orders must specify the person who is responsible for supervising compliance. Who do the Government have in mind—a youth worker? There are hardly any left following the government cuts to local authorities. Do they have in mind a community police officer? There are hardly any left following government cuts to the police service. Youth workers are supposed to build relationships with young people and to offer help and guidance, yet they will have to report breaches to the police, breaking down the trust that they have built up with their young people, being responsible for giving evidence of the breach in court and securing a criminal record for the young person they are supposed to be building a rapport with. Or do the Government have in mind a community police officer or PCSO? Their primary role is to build trust and confidence with their local community, yet they will be asked to give evidence of breaches of orders and arrest young people, resulting in children being given criminal records and potentially being sent to custody. These impositions on people who are crucial to tackling the long-term drivers of knife crime go directly counter to the public health approach to tackling knife crime that this Government claim to be engaged in.

As far as the pilot provisions are concerned, I ask the Minister why a pilot is necessary. We know the disproportionate impact that this type of order has because of our experiences with ASBOs. Stop and search is still used disproportionately on black and minority-ethnic young people, and there is no evidence to suggest that these orders will not be used in a similar way.

A Youth Justice Board evaluation of ASBOs in 2006 found that 22% of young people given ASBOs were BAME—two and a half times their proportion of the population. It also found that:

“Many young people did not have a clear understanding of the details of their orders … It was not uncommon for them to flout openly the prohibitions that placed the greatest restrictions on their lifestyle … All the young people interviewed were aware of the possibility of breach, but most either did not regard the threat of custody as ‘real’, or did not consider it to be a deterrent”,

and that:

“Parents (like some professionals) commonly argued that ASBOs functioned as a ‘badge of honour’, rather than addressing the causes of the behaviour”.

In a 2010 speech, Theresa May said of ASBOs that,

“their top-down, bureaucratic, gimmick-laden approach just got in the way of the police, other professionals and the people themselves from taking action … For 13 years, politicians told us that the government had the answer; that the ASBO was the silver bullet that would cure all society’s ills. It wasn’t … These sanctions were too complex and bureaucratic—there were too many of them, they were too time consuming and expensive and they too often criminalised young people unnecessarily, acting as a conveyor belt to serious crime and prison”.

She also said that,

“the latest ASBO statistics have shown that breach rates have yet again increased—more than half are breached at least once, 40% are breached more than once and their use has fallen yet again, to the lowest ever level. It’s time to move beyond the ASBO”.

That is what Theresa May said, yet this Government are reinventing the ASBO with these orders.

The Minister has said that the police have asked for these orders. It was quite clear from the round table yesterday who was asking for them: it was the officer in charge of using enforcement to tackle knife crime. He said that he had consulted practitioners but, under questioning, admitted that it was other police forces who had been consulted, not other agencies. According to a Liberty briefing, the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, the Magistrates’ Association, the Local Government Association, a range of human rights organisations and groups working directly with children all have serious concerns about these orders. What consultation has actually taken place?

I was a police officer for over 30 years and at one time I was the police commander with responsibility for community policing and multiagency approaches to reducing crime and disorder. I completely and absolutely oppose these orders, not because I am a Liberal Democrat or because I have been told to toe the party line but because I honestly believe from my experience and knowledge that they will be counterproductive in tackling knife crime and in dealing with the underlying problems.

The solution to the epidemic of knife crime is a public health approach. The trauma suffered by young people surrounded by violence on the streets and in their homes, normalising violence and leading to a “rather be in prison for carrying a knife than stabbed to death” mentality—that needs to be treated. The mindset borne out of poverty and discrimination that society is not there for you, so you have to look out for yourself; that the police are there to arrest you, not to protect you, if they are there at all; that, because your parents are working three jobs to put food on the table, you have to look for love, acknowledgement and a sense of belonging from the gangs—that needs to be addressed. Instead, the Government propose measures that turn youth workers into law enforcers as the supervisors of KCPOs and reinforce the belief that even the community police officers are there to arrest rather than protect you.

I have two final questions. Can the Minister clarify whether the police could still apply for a KCPO if a young person were found not guilty of a criminal offence involving a knife? At the briefing yesterday, the police said no and the Home Office said yes. Does she consider imposing a knife crime prevention order on someone acquitted of a criminal offence a form of double jeopardy?

I had hoped that the days had gone when Governments gave the police all the powers they wanted so that they could blame them, not themselves, if things went wrong. They have apparently not. These orders have not been thought through and we oppose them.

Photo of Lord Hogan-Howe Lord Hogan-Howe Crossbench 8:45 pm, 26th February 2019

My Lords, I also spoke in Committee. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, as he is aware. I come from a similar background and do not have the same experience of anti-social behaviour orders. They were introduced by a Labour Government and, at the time, I think they had an effect. We had a moral panic, and we also had a problem with anti-social behaviour. They were intended to address repeat offenders, repeat locations and, sadly, repeat victims. They did have an effect. They probably went on a bit too long and eventually outlived their usefulness, but the principle was valid and addressed the order to people’s offending. People had the choice to address their offending pattern or have a criminal sanction, and some chose not to address their offending pattern.

The point that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made—that it seems to intervene with young people who may not be able to remember all of the conditions placed on them—is not unreasonable. However, generally, this order’s aim is to replace the parental care that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to earlier. When some of these kids do not have someone who cares enough to say, “That’s a line—don’t cross it”, this is one way to give them some advice. I do not think that it means that a 12 year-old will always end up with a prison sentence or even a criminal conviction, but someone needs to intervene in that pattern. Why are they getting involved with gangs and, frankly, mixing with people who are not helping them? Someone needs to advise them where they should not go, who they should not see and about the types of behaviour that are causing them problems. This is one way of doing it. I accept that there may be others, but I do not think that it is unreasonable to give that type of advice.

I broadly support these orders, mainly because we have a serious problem. The Minister went through the number of people who have been hurt and arrested carrying knives, and we clearly have a cultural problem at the moment. We have had it in previous years—this is not the first time. People in this Chamber will remember tens of years ago, when various groups who carried knives ended up competing with each other, often to sell drugs or for any other form of territory where a weapon became the means of establishing it. We have to intervene now and send a message.

I will contest one final point from the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about whether community officers are there to arrest people. They are not, but in my view they are not there just to smile and be nice to people. They have powers. It does not help the community they serve if they ignore offences and leave someone else to make the arrest. They are there to exercise the powers that allow people to trust that it is worth telling them when an offence has been committed.

I would ask the Government still to consider two areas for the future. I agree with the point about pilots. At one time, the Ministry of Justice had so many pilots that we thought it was starting an airline. The danger is that, after a while, it becomes confusing. It also becomes quite difficult to evaluate the success of multiple pilots; so, I worry about pilots generically.

The second point, which the Minister quietly mentioned earlier, is that some people are released from prison to areas other than those where they were convicted. Also, offenders move from where they live to other areas around the country, which means that officers in areas where a pilot may not be in place would have to understand what the powers are; frankly, that could get pretty confusing. This House and the other place generate a huge amount of legislation; officers are expected to remember and act on it fairly. The more legislation there is, the harder it is to enforce when it is partial and fragmented. I worry about pilots for that reason too.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, if we accept that there is a need for this legislation—as I do, and I am prepared to support it—deciding to implement it partially seems an odd conclusion, since we have agreed that nationally there is a problem. We need to implement legislation in a uniform rather than a fragmented, incremental way.

Finally, I repeat a point that I made in Committee: this Bill does not give a power of search. The Minister said in Committee that existing powers of search were sufficient. I honestly do not believe they are. Section 1 of the Bill gives a power to search—anybody at any time—on reasonable suspicion, but these orders are for people who have already gone through a court process, probably at least twice, and have been found to be at risk of carrying knives. It seems not unreasonable to support the police in the relatively few cases concerned, as mentioned by the Minister; I am sure that far fewer than 3,000 of these orders will be implemented. It would not be an incredible burden for the legislature to support the police by saying that a power of search goes with this power, without the “reasonable cause” that Section 1 requires; it would not be unreasonable to support the police in that way. The officers described by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who proposed this power—which is generally supported by the police—had requested that the power of search went with it. They were disappointed when they saw that this request had not been accepted in the legislation.

I support the amendments but I suggest to the Minister that the Government consider the two issues I have mentioned: piloting and the power of search.

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench

My Lords, I rise to respond to the government amendments in this group, as well as Amendments 55 to 60 in relation to the proposed pilots of the new KCPOs. I thank the Minister for meeting me to discuss my considerable concerns about these knife crime prevention orders. Amendment 52 could provide some reassurance, but that would depend very much on how those pilots are undertaken and reported upon.

In view of the Government’s claim that these orders were wanted by the police, I asked Ron Hogg, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham—which is one of the top-performing constabularies in the country, according to the inspectorate—whether he and his chief constable, Mike Barton, would find KCPOs a helpful contribution to policing and dealing with knife crime. His considered response—given at some length—amounted to a resounding no.

I would be grateful if the Minister could inform the House how many police services want knife crime prevention orders and how many would prefer not to have them. Police and Crime Commissioner Hogg reiterated many of the concerns that I raised in Committee; in particular, that there is a body of evidence to show that criminalising and punitive civil deterrents have not had a significant impact on reducing youth violence. These policies, as others have mentioned, have included ASBOs, dispersal orders and criminal behaviour orders. Can the Minister confirm—this is very important—that the KCPO pilots will specifically assess, and report on, their impact on the criminalisation of children, and the impact on knife crime in the areas involved? It is no good having pilots if they do not nail down what the orders are achieving in the crucial areas.

Does the Minister accept that in the light of recent swingeing cuts to local authority youth services, and drug services in particular, it will be important to boost these services and restore those cuts in the pilot areas, with a view to rolling out that restoration of funding across the country? Only if these prevention orders really do lead to children and young people accessing the services and treatment they need will criminalisation be avoided and positive outcomes achieved.

I strongly support Amendment 55, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, which proposes that the national rollout of KCPOs must be subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament, and the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. We are all familiar with meaningless pilots of government policy—that is not a party-political point, it applies to Governments of all colours—where the rollout of a policy begins before the pilot has even been completed, and certainly before the report on a pilot has been made available and debated in Parliament. Can the Minister give the House an assurance that this will not happen in this case, but that the pilots will be completed and reported on to Parliament before the rollout is undertaken?

I have just a few more questions to pop out quickly; if the Minister cannot respond this evening, perhaps she could reply in writing. What training is the department creating for police forces to spot forms of criminal exploitation in vulnerable young people? What assessments has the Home Office carried out of previous civil orders and their impact on the crime rate, and what have been the results of those studies? Will the gang matrix be used to target suitable people for a KCPO? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 9:00 pm, 26th February 2019

My Lords, I am speaking partly as a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I am not going to read all the letters that the committee has written to the Minister, and I know that she will respond to the committee, but I thought it appropriate to let the House know that the committee has raised concerns, having identified seven rights that are engaged by these proposals. As one might expect, the concerns are about the possible criminalisation of children who have no previous criminal convictions, for breaching requirements which could be imposed in ways which prevent them conducting a normal life.

The committee also asked whether the regime for gang injunctions, which the noble Baroness has just mentioned, might be applied in a similar fashion. They can be applied only to persons aged 14 and over, and a breach is a civil contempt of court, not a criminal offence. For those under 18, breaches are dealt with by way of a separate statutory scheme, with a maximum length of detention of three months. Therefore, the committee has asked the Government to explain why a similar regime has not been proposed to tackle knife crime. The committee has also asked for early sight of the proposed guidance, so that it can be scrutinised when the Bill returns to the Commons.

The amendments on piloting—which are amendments to government Amendment 52—were tabled before yesterday’s round-table meeting with the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, which has been referred to, to probe how the pilot proposed by the Government will operate. What is “purpose” in this context? The pilots are to be for a specified purpose, and one needs to understand “purpose” before one asks about specified purpose. I would have assumed that it is to prevent knife crime, but there must be more than that. In Amendment 56, we take a shot at this issue by listing various categories of order.

We are also seeking to obtain assurances that the objective of the pilot is to evaluate, learn and adjust, so in Amendment 57 we refer to the criteria to be used in evaluating and collecting the data about numbers, including age and ethnicity; data about the conditions applied by the court, since it is important to know in practice what happens; and, of course, data about consultation. We have also raised the issue of areas, although since tabling this amendment I understand that it is not proposed that the pilot—or the first pilot, maybe—will necessarily be a whole-force area; for instance, within the Met it may be two or three boroughs and if we are to have these orders, that seems to be right for the purposes of comparison.

In Amendment 107, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has been far more straightforward than my rather convoluted attempt at ensuring that the regulations will be made through an affirmative SI—not just the initial pilot but the full rollout. I hope that the Minister will not analyse my drafting but confirm that that is what is intended.

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Labour

My Lords, I rise to speak against the Government’s proposals. I remind the House that I sit as a magistrate in London. In fact, earlier today I was dealing with knife-related offences at Highbury magistrates’ court. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, summarised very fully the case that I was going to put forward so I will try to put forward different points, which were covered earlier in Committee.

The Government’s case is that the KCPO is aimed at filling a gap which is not covered by existing preventive measures, such as gang injunctions and criminal behaviour orders. The Minister has argued forcefully that the potential benefit of preventing knife crime through KCPOs outweighs the potential disbenefit of criminalising children who breach such an order. In essence, that is the argument which we have had a number of times over the last few weeks. She will be aware that many groups have advocated against these KCPOs, for the reasons that we have heard this evening.

Yesterday, I too attended the round-table meeting with the Minister in the Commons, Victoria Atkins. When I asked her for the difference between a KCPO and a conditional caution, I got a better answer than I was expecting because she said that the KCPO would provide a wraparound approach. I was a bit surprised by her words. Earlier this evening we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, about hoping to replace inadequate parenting with a more caring—I think that was the word—approach, so that parental care may be approached somehow through these KCPOs. That is absolutely great and I would support it as a good thing, but the reality is that there is no new money available. As far as I can see, the only difference between a KCPO and a conditional caution is at the level of entry into either the order or the caution.

As we have heard, the KCPO has a lower requirement. It is a civil standard, based on the suspicion of a police officer. I remind the House what the requirements for a youth conditional caution are. First, there may be a clear admission of guilt. That is one option but there is a second which is not normally remembered and where there does not need to be any admission of guilt. If the officer believes that there is sufficient evidence against the young person, they can choose to place a conditional caution even when there is no admission of guilt. Of course, all the conditions, as far as I can see, can be exactly the same either in the KCPO or the conditional caution. I do not see how the laudable aspiration of providing wraparound care or some form of parental guidance—or however one chooses to phrase it—would be better met with a KCPO than with a conditional caution.

There is the other effect, the one that we have been talking about, of net-widening when having the lower standard of proof. The people who have advised me are confident that that will bring more young people into being criminalised, which I would regret.

The Minister gave a very strong speech earlier this evening, but the reality is that there is no more money available. That is much more important than however many pieces of legislation that this House chooses to pass. I hope that the Minister will say something encouraging about putting more money into youth services for young people, because that is the true answer to this problem.

Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench

I rise to oppose the KCPO proposal, as I did in Grand Committee. I shall not repeat all the arguments that I raised then, because other noble Lords have already mentioned them. However, I ask the Minister: who dreamed up these KCPOs? Were they a Home Office invention? It appears that the Youth Justice Board, the Children’s Commissioner and local government services were not consulted. The Magistrates’ Association, the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, the Local Government Association, The Children’s Society and the knife crime APPG are all opposed to it. We hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, that the police and crime commissioner in Durham is also opposed to it.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, mentioned the cost, because there is no reckoning or details of the cost available to Members of this House. I question the pilot and am also worried about Amendment 63, because that seems to click in only if the KCPOs are approved. I hope that the House will not approve them.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

I express my deep concerns about what the Government are proposing. I also felt that the Minister made a very strong speech, making it really clear to us again, sitting in this place, that this is about young people, usually on housing estates, being stabbed, bleeding out, dying and losing all that potential in their lives. This is a very grave situation.

That does not mean we should do anything that comes to mind to respond; we need to make an effective response. I am particularly concerned, as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, about the criminalising of young people in care. My noble friend Lord Laming’s report two years ago focused on work to reduce the criminalisation of these children, who are so overrepresented in our prisons. The police have recently created a protocol for working with children’s homes to lower the rates of criminalisation. However, I feel certain that if this KCPO is introduced, we will see more children from children’s homes ending up in the criminal justice system. I strongly oppose what is being proposed.

We were recently briefed on county lines. Your Lordships will be aware that drug dealers are grooming children to send far and wide across the country to provide new markets for their drugs. The Children’s Society commented that it will often be children in poverty, from children’s homes, and in difficult circumstances, who are sent away to deal drugs. They will often be supplied with knives or will get them from doing this work. These are the kinds of children who get drawn into this.

Working with children over many years, my experience has been that you have to set sanctions and boundaries for them, but one does not want to set a hurdle which leads to a huge jump into severe punishment. One wants to say: “I am watching you; I see what you are up to; I have got my eye on you; I am paying close attention to you; I am not accepting this behaviour”. You do not want to move from that to saying: “If you do not behave, next time I see you I am going to lock you up” for however long. I am not expressing myself very well. It is late at night and I will not detain your Lordships any longer. I very strongly oppose these proposals. They are not well thought out and I hope that the House will reject them tonight.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 9:15 pm, 26th February 2019

My Lords, knife crime prevention orders are an attempt by the Government to deal with the horror of knife crime. Hardly a week goes by without a report of a young life lost. We see parents on our television screens in the depths of unimaginable despair as they try to understand what has happened to their child. These are things that no one should have to experience: a child, a loved one, murdered. It is also clear that the perpetrators of these crimes destroy their own lives when they are caught and punished. We must ask ourselves: have we as a society failed these children and young people as well?

Teaching right from wrong starts in the home, of course, but other agencies also play their part as children go to school and interact with the world around them. The destruction of Sure Start by the Government was a huge mistake—it was destroyed at the altar of austerity. Services for young people have been devastated. There are no youth clubs, no youth workers in any great numbers. Where children are not in loving homes and no one is there to help them, who becomes their family? The risk is that it will be the drug dealer, the gangs, and the people who exploit and abuse them, who become their family. You are part of a gang; there are people who are in other gangs. You have your territory and they have theirs. I was horrified to learn recently that there are young people living in Camberwell, an area of Southwark where I went to school, who are too scared to cross Camberwell New Road and walk into Lambeth. I could not believe it but it is true: they have never been into the borough of Lambeth. That is another gang’s territory and if they go there they risk being stabbed and killed.

When we debated this in Grand Committee, I asked why COBRA has not been convened to deal with this national emergency. If there is a flood, or other emergency, it is convened, so why not to stop this appalling loss of life and destruction of young lives and families? Why not try to deal with this as a national emergency? You could get the police, the Local Government Association, the Home Office and every other relevant agency around the table to look at solutions to these tragic, devastating incidents. I do not think it is over the top to stop young people losing their lives.

I accept that there is support for these orders. I think I am correct in saying that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police supports them, as does the Mayor of London. However, concerns have also been raised about the criminalising of children. That concern has been expressed tonight by the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Ramsbotham, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, my noble friend Lord Ponsonby and other noble Lords. If these orders are to come into force, we need a proper pilot scheme, with proper evaluation, and then, having considered the report, a vote in both Houses of Parliament on whether to either roll them out fully or not continue with them. This is the subject of Amendment 55 in my name. Amendment 63, which I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for supporting, sets out the report to be laid before Parliament before these come into effect.

There are legitimate concerns about the way this proposal has been introduced so late in the day, the lack of consultations with relevant organisations and the lack of scrutiny in the other place where there was none at all because it was introduced after the Bill had left that House. Although I believe we do scrutiny better in this House, the elected House should have had its opportunity and the fact that it has not is regrettable. Getting a series of Lords amendments to debate in the other place is not the same as a Bill Committee, with evidence being taken and the other place going through its proper parliamentary procedures. I think this proposal deserves that.

A number of key points have been raised by noble Lords around the House. The Minister needs to respond carefully before we decide whether to vote on these matters.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for his point about responding carefully—I certainly shall, because this is a very serious issue.

Before I respond to the amendments from the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Paddick, and other points raised in the debate, I want to emphasise again that the purpose of these orders is not to punish those who have been carrying knives but to divert them away from that behaviour and to put in place measures that will stop them being drawn into more serious violent offending. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, quoted my honourable friend Vicky Atkins, who said that they are there to provide that wraparound care. That is precisely their intention—not to draw children into criminality. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said that a public health approach is needed, and I absolutely agree with him. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary precisely outlined his intention to pursue a public health approach to this issue.

The other important thing to note about these orders is that they should not be seen in isolation, and they will not in and of themselves provide all the answers. They need to be seen in the context of the comprehensive programme of action set out in our Serious Violence Strategy, which we published last year.

We must try and stop the journey that leads young people from carrying a knife for self-protection to serious violence. We should not focus on picking up the pieces but do all we can to stop those lives being broken in the first place. I am sure noble Lords will agree that prosecution for young children is not always the most appropriate response, and we do not want them drawn into the criminal justice system if we can possibly help it. KCPOs will enable the police and others to address the underlying issues and steer young people away from knife crime through positive interventions.

The amendments contain important safeguards to ensure that KCPOs are not used inappropriately against young people under the age of 18. In particular, the amendments require the police to consult the relevant youth offending team before an order is made and, once made, an order must be reviewed by the courts after 12 months. We fully expect that the courts will provide for more regular reviews where a KCPO is issued to a person under the age of 18. But we remain of the view that the breach of an order should be a criminal offence if these orders are to be effective. This will mean that those on orders understand how important it is to comply with the restrictions or requirements imposed by the court.

I turn now to the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. These amendments tie into government Amendment 52 which provides for, and indeed mandates, the piloting of KCPOs. That these orders should be the subject of a pilot before they are rolled out nationally is clearly a sensible approach, although I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Hogan- Howe, who would just like to see them rolled out. But these are new orders and it is important that we get them right. Piloting will mean that the police can try out the orders in a few areas, and that they can build experience and learn lessons from operating them for an initial period before they are made available to other police forces. I would expect the pilot areas to include one or more London boroughs, but they might also include other cities with high knife crime. By their nature, the pilot areas will be limited and I hope that assurance deals with Amendment 60 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

Amendment 52 further requires a report to be laid before Parliament on the outcome of the pilot. This will allow Parliament to consider whether these orders are effective and whether they are likely to deliver the intended benefits. It is important that this report is as comprehensive as possible and I am sure that it will include at least some of the information specified in Amendments 57 and 63. By its nature, the report required by Amendment 52 will be a one-off, but I fully expect that once rolled out, KCPOs will be the subject of ongoing scrutiny. There are existing mechanisms for this, such as parliamentary Questions and debates, an inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee and the normal process of post-legislative review. I am therefore not persuaded that the new orders should be subject to an annual reporting requirement, as set out in Amendment 63.

Amendment 55 would require the national rollout of KCPOs to be subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament. I think it is the intention of Amendment 107 to require that regulations provided for the pilots should also be subject to prior parliamentary approval. Again, I am not persuaded of the case for this. The government amendments adopt the standard approach of providing for KCPO provisions, including the pilots, to be brought into force by regulations made by the Home Secretary. In the usual way, such regulations are not subject to parliamentary procedure and I see no reason to adopt a different approach here. Once Parliament has approved the principle of the provisions by enacting them, commencement is then properly a matter for the Executive.

Amendment 52 enables the piloting of the provisions for one or more specified purposes as well as in one or more specified areas. Our intention is to have area-based pilots rather than purpose-based pilots, but we might need some combination of the two. As I have said, our intention is to pilot these provisions principally in part of the Metropolitan Police area, but potentially also in one or two other police force areas. In doing so, it might be necessary to commence certain provisions more widely.

The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, asked about the situation where an application on conviction is made in the pilot area, but the subject of the order then moves to another part of the country. To cater for such circumstances, it might be necessary to give all courts in England and Wales jurisdiction to vary or discharge, but not to make, an order.

Turning to other issues raised in this group, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about a consultation that is going to be done as part of the pilot. He also asked about someone who is not guilty of a crime but is given a KCPO. KCPOs are available on application by the police where they have evidence that the individual has carried a knife on two occasions in the preceding two years. If an individual is acquitted but there is evidence that they have carried a knife, an application can be made. It will be for the magistrate or youth court to determine whether the test is met and whether a KCPO is necessary to prevent knife offending or to protect the public.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, asked how many police forces wanted KCPOs and how many do not, which is a reasonable question. The National Police Chiefs’ Council, which represents all 43 police forces in England and Wales, supports KCPOs. In addition, Assistant Commissioner Duncan Ball, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said he welcomed the new powers announced by the Home Office, and the APCC chair likewise.

The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, asked why we have not given a search power. We did not consider the power of stop and search without reasonable grounds necessary because there are existing powers to stop and search individuals where there are reasonable grounds to suspect them of carrying a knife. We think it appropriate for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 protection to continue to apply to the subjects of these orders.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, asked about funding and said that there was no point in doing this if funding is not in place. My honourable friend partly answered that point yesterday. Of course, we have made an additional £970 million available to the police for next year and will provide £200 million over 10 years for the all-important early intervention youth fund. We have the National County Lines Coordination Centre. In 2018-19, £1.5 million will go to the community fund; £17.7 million has already been put into the early intervention youth fund for work with PCCs and CSPs to provide the joined-up support mentioned by noble Lords. I think I have answered all noble Lords’ questions.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench 9:30 pm, 26th February 2019

My Lords, will the Minister ensure that in any pilots, an assessment will be made of the impact of KCPOs on young people in care who are looked after by their local authority and care leavers?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

The noble Earl is right to point out that children in care are the most vulnerable people in all the areas we look at. Of course, they will be a prime consideration because they are the most likely to be vulnerable to the sorts of things we are talking about. Local authorities, as their corporate parents, are responsible for them.

Finally, the Government do not pretend for one moment that KCPOs are the magic wand to answer all the problems of knife crime. I emphasise that they are one tool, but an important one, to end the scourge affecting young people, communities and their families. With that, I beg to move.

Ayes 145, Noes 84.

Division number 3 Offensive Weapons Bill - Report (1st Day)

Aye: 143 Members of the House of Lords

No: 82 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Amendment 35 agreed.