Knife crime prevention orders will not target the usual suspects, police say

New court orders aimed at stopping people as young as 12 from carrying knives will not be used to target and round up “the usual suspects”, the lead officer in the police pilot scheme has said.

Commander Ade Adelekan insists the 14-month trial of knife crime prevention orders (KCPOs) by the Metropolitan Police is aimed at trying to reach youngsters who are “on the cusp” of violence, it “will not criminalise” them but try and help turn them away from crime.

He said of the scheme, which uses civil orders and began on Monday: “If we did not have knife crime prevention orders – the time we catch up with young people is when they are in a court of law. It is too late then.

“If we identify people who are on the cusp of knife crime, there is stuff that we can do. Part of that is a knife crime prevention order with positive requirements for them to do positive things.”

Stabbings graphic
(PA Graphics)

He added: “It is not about the usual suspects – it is about some of those young people on the cusp of violence and trying to prevent them from getting involved violence.”

Under the pilot scheme, which could be rolled out to other forces in England and Wales, any officer can apply to a magistrates’ court for a KCPO to be imposed on a youngster they believe is carrying blades, regularly has knives or has knife-related convictions.

Commander Adelekan said police can start to look at a person who has been involved in a knife crime related offence on two or more times to
to see if a KCPO is suitable for them.

Any potential action against someone who is named in relation to knife crime has to be proved as a necessity, is based on information from July 5 and is not retroactive.

He said: “I think it represents an opportunity for young people. These possible requirements could be actually go to school, go to a conflict management class, go to an anger management class, go to an educational class or whatever it may be that we can do.”

It comes after two teenage boys died in separate stabbings on Monday, leading to concerns that the grim tally of violent teenage deaths in London for the whole year will exceed the previous high of 27 in 2017.

Stabbings in London
Police near to the scene in Lambeth, south London, where a 16-year-old boy died after being stabbed on Monday evening (Victoria Jones/PA)

This would mean the highest teenage death toll since 2012. So far in the capital in 2021, a total of 21 teenagers have been killed in just over six months.

The younger boy died when violence broke out near Woolwich Arsenal station in south-east London, while the 16-year-old was found injured in Oval Place in Lambeth.

Under KCPOs, youngsters could find themselves facing conditions such as curfews and restrictions on their use of social media.

They could be banned from travelling to certain geographical areas as well as being stopped from carrying a knife.

The KCPOs can be in place for a maximum of two years and must be reviewed by the courts after 12 months, with orders issued to under-18s to be reviewed more regularly.

The courts can also call for a range of activities to take place such as educational courses, sports club referrals, relationship counselling, anger management, mentoring and drug rehabilitation under the orders.

Breaching the order will be a criminal offence punishable by a maximum prison sentence of two years if convicted.

The pilot includes a central team, headed by a chief superintendent and a superintendent, which sits within the Met’s Violent Crime Task Force who will monitor for consistency of approach.

Evaluation, which will be carried out on a daily basis, is being led by the Met’s strategic insight unit with help from experts at Cambridge University and University College London, according to Commander Adelekan.

He said: “If this really does work then I suggest we need to evaluate this properly as to why it does work, but if it doesn’t work also I think we need to stop it fairly quickly.”

He described the KCPOs as being “bespoke to the individual” and they will involve talking to the individual, partner agencies, officers, and charitable organisations who know these young people.

No KCPO has yet been applied for and Commander Adelekan could not estimate how many would be called for during the trial.

He described fears over racial profiling as “a valid question to ask”, and said the force has carried out an equalities impact assessment which will be continually reviewed.

He said there would be “qualitative” evaluation which means “actually speaking to the recipients of these and understanding the impact on them – be it positive or negative”.

There would also be meetings to ensure that “communities are not against us”.

Commander Adelekan said that knife crime and street violence in London disproportionately affects boys and young men, particularly of African-Caribbean heritage, both in terms of victims and perpetrators.

Court applications for KCPOs will “solely be made on evidence, intelligence and information on the individual’s circumstances”, he added.

“The ambition is to have a range of tactics that will enable us to tackle violence in a number of ways, reduce violent knife enabled crime, safeguard young people by diverting them from further violence, save lives and make communities safer,” he said.