Bladed Articles & Offensive Weapons Consultation

Closed 6 Jan 2017

Opened 6 Oct 2016

Overview

Overarching issues and the context of the guidelines

This consultation seeks views on 3 guidelines; possession of a bladed article/ offensive weapon; threatening with a bladed article/ offensive weapon, and a youth guideline which covers all offences involving bladed articles and offensive weapons.

The principal pieces of legislation for the main offences are the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988. In addition the adult guideline covers the offence of unauthorised possession of a knife or offensive weapon in prison which is governed by the Prison Act 1952.

There has been growing concern over recent years about the number of people carrying knives and other weapons on the streets. As Sir Igor Judge (as he then was) said in R v Povey:

Carrying a knife or an offensive weapon without reasonable excuse is a crime which is being committed far too often by far too many people. Every weapon carried about the streets, even if concealed from sight, even if not likely to be or intended to be used, and even if not used represents a threat to public safety and public order. That is because even if concealed, even if carried only for bravado, or from some misguided sense that its use in possible self-defence might arise, it takes but a moment of irritation, drunkenness, anger, perceived insult or something utterly trivial, like a look, for the weapon to be produced. Then we have mayhem and offences of the greatest possible seriousness follow, including murder, manslaughter, grievous bodily harm, wounding and assault. All those offences have victims.

Since 2008 there have been a number of new offences introduced which highlight Parliament’s concern about offences of this kind. The new offences are; possession of bladed articles/ offensive weapons on school premises or in prisons; and the offences of threatening with a bladed article/ offensive weapon in a public place or on school premises. Legislation has also been amended to provide that any offender convicted of a second or further offence will be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months for an adult and 4 months’ Detention and Training Order for a youth. In addition the new threatening offences carry a mandatory minimum sentence of the same length.

Applicability of guidelines

In accordance with section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Sentencing Council issues these draft guidelines.  Following consultation, when the adult definitive guidelines are produced they will apply to all offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after the implementation date, regardless of the date of the offence. The separate youth guideline will apply to all offenders aged under 18 who are sentenced on or after the date that the guideline comes into force, regardless of the date of the offence.

Section 125(1) Coroners and Justice Act 2009 provides that when sentencing offences committed after 6 April 2010:

“Every court -

(a) must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guideline which is relevant to the offender’s case, and

(b) must, in exercising any other function relating to the sentencing of offenders, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the exercise of the function,

unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.”




[1] R v Povey [2008] EWCA Crim 1261; R v Monteiro & Others [2014] EWCA Crim 747

 

Why We Are Consulting

What is the Sentencing Council?

The Sentencing Council is the independent body responsible for developing sentencing guidelines for the courts to use when passing a sentence. Part of the Council’s remit [1] is to conduct public consultations on guidelines for the sentencing of offenders.

Why bladed articles and offensive weapons?

Courts see a relatively high number of bladed article and offensive weapon cases come before them. In 2015 there were 7,809 adult offenders sentenced for these offences, approximately 66% were dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, and 34% in the Crown Court. In the same time period there were 1,384 young offenders sentenced.

There is some existing guidance for adult offenders being sentenced in the magistrates’ court, but no guidance for adult offenders being sentenced in the Crown Court, or for young offenders.

In the magistrates’ court the existing guidance; Possession of bladed article/ offensive weapon, was produced by the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC), and is contained within the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines (MCSG). This guideline was produced in August 2008 alongside an additional note Sentencing for possession of a weapon - knife crime which was produced to be read with the guideline.  The additional note draws a distinction between offences involving a knife and those involving other weapons, and refers to the judgment in R v Povey [2] which recommended that when sentencing an offender for an offence involving a knife the MCSG guideline should normally be applied at the most severe end of the appropriate range to reflect prevalence concerns. 

Since the development of the MCSG guideline in 2008, a number of new offences have been introduced (those offences listed below with an asterisk), many of which are subject to mandatory minimum sentences (those offences listed below with a double asterisk). These new offences are not covered by any guidance.

The new guideline will provide sentencers across the Crown Court, magistrates’ court and youth court with guidance for all of the offences listed below, which will assist in achieving the Council’s objective of consistent sentencing, and provide transparency for the public regarding the possible penalties for these offences.

Which offences are covered by the guideline?

The new bladed article and offensive weapons guideline will contain guidance for:

  • Possession of an offensive weapon in a public place
  • Possession of an article with a blade/ point in a public place
  • Possession of an offensive weapon on school premises*
  • Possession of an article with a blade/ point on school premises*
  • Unauthorised possession in prison of a knife or offensive weapon* (adult guideline only)
  • Threatening with an offensive weapon in a public place**
  • Threatening with an article with a blade/ point in a public place**
  • Threatening with an article with a blade/ point on school premises**
  • Threatening with an offensive weapon on school premises**




[1] ss.118-136 Coroners and Justice Act 2009

[2] [2008] EWCA Crim 1262

 

 

 

Areas

  • All Areas

Audiences

  • Prison staff
  • IMB secretariat staff
  • Citizens
  • Voluntary organisations
  • Charities
  • Government departments
  • Legal professionals
  • Judiciary
  • Police and law enforcement professionals

Interests

  • Public Bodies
  • Youth Justice
  • Criminal justice
  • Law
  • Legal aid
  • Legal services
  • Criminal justice