Young knife criminals who post offences on social media could face tougher punishments


New sentencing proposals could mean young criminals who film offences with knives and post them on social media, or offenders who carry a blade in a group, could face tougher punishments.

The scenarios are among a number of "aggravating factors" for judges and magistrates to take into account when sentencing defendants convicted of possessing a knife or offensive weapon in public, or of using one to make threats.

These new draft guidelines are being published by the Sentencing Council to take into account a number of changes in the law and court judgments.

The proposals do not cover offences where a knife or other weapon is actually used to harm a victim, nor the use or possession of firearms.

(Daniel Law/PA)
(Daniel Law/PA)

The list of possible aggravating factors for youth offenders include "deliberate humiliation of victim, including but not limited to filming of the offence, deliberately committing the offence before a group of peers with the intent of causing additional distress or circulating details/photos/videos etc of the offence on social media or within peer groups".

The council said this was included because it is "aware that through the use of social media, the recording and sharing of photographs and video footage has become increasingly common." Such circumstances could also be taken into consideration in cases involving adults.

Other factors listed in the guidelines - which will now be subject to consultation - also include offenders being in a group or gang, attempting to hide their identity, or targeting victims due to a vulnerability.

(Alan Simpson/PA)
(Alan Simpson/PA)

The consultation document said courts see a relatively high number of bladed article and offensive weapon cases - approximately 7,800 adult offenders were sentenced for the crimes in 2015.

Last year the government introduced a new "two strikes" regime meaning adults caught with a blade more than once face a minimum custodial sentence of six months, which courts should impose unless there are particular circumstances that make doing so unjust.

Figures released last month showed that nearly half of repeat offenders had avoided jail nearly a year after the change took effect. Under the draft proposals those convicted of offences involving knives or particularly dangerous weapons, as well as repeat offenders, will receive the highest sentences.

The council said the introduction of the guidelines, which would cover England and Wales, may therefore lead to some increases in sentence levels - most likely in relation to adults convicted of possession offences.

In cases involving youths, courts will be encouraged to look in greater detail at their age and maturity, background and circumstances.