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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

New powers to tackle gun and knife crime

  • Published: Monday, 1 October 2007

A range of tough new powers to tackle alcohol-fulled disorder, knife and gun crime, including realistic imitation firearms and air weapons, came into force today and have been welcomed by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"The new measures which come into force on Monday send the strong signal that weapons on our streets will not be tolerated. Tackling gun and knife crime is a top priority for this Government and it is essential that we build on the tools and powers that police already have in order to make people feel safer and more secure in their communities.

"We are determined to prevent young people obtaining knives by raising the age from 16 to 18. We are also determined to crack down on the criminals who use realistic imitation firearms to threaten and intimidate people.

"It is important to remember that the gun crime problem is concentrated in a few local areas which we recognise and on which we are focusing our efforts with the new Tackling Gangs Action Programme. These new powers are the latest example of how the Government is working to make all communities safer, putting the interests of law-abiding people at the heart of our crime prevention action plans."

Imitation guns feature in a significant number of crimes, ranging from nuisance and intimidation to armed robbery. In 2005/06 there were 3,275 offences involving imitations, which accounted for about 15 per cent of all firearms offences in that period. Although that figure has decreased to 2,493 offences in 2006/07, the Government remains determined to crack down on criminals who use realistic imitations to threaten and intimidate people.

Gun crime and young people

Since 2000, young people aged 10 to 17 have accounted for one fifth of those who have been convicted of unlawfully carrying a knife. The new knife offence aims to further prevent young people getting hold of knives, by raising the age at which a knife can be purchased from 16 to 18. This sends a clear message that the Government expects knives only to be used for legitimate purposes by responsible adults.

Other measures also coming into force today include:

  • a new power for the police to apply for a fast track review of an alcohol premises' licence if they feel it could be associated with serious crime or serious disorder, and a power for councils to step in and impose immediate extra conditions on the licence pending that review
  • authorised members of staff at attendance centres can search anyone they suspect of carrying a knife or other offensive weapon
  • an offence to sell a crossbow to a person aged under 18 (increased from 16).

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