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KNIFE AMNESTY TO GET BLADES OFF THE STREETS

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The first national knife amnesty for over 10 years begins today as people in England and Wales are encouraged to ha...
The first national knife amnesty for over 10 years begins today as people in England and Wales are encouraged to hand over their knives to their local police.

Until 30 June people are being given the chance to bin their knives and avoid prosecution. In a joint poster campaign, the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers will warn people about the dangers of carrying knives and encourage them to dispose of their knives in specially designed secure red wheelie bins.

Every police force in England and Wales will take part in the National Knife Amnesty, with Scotland organising its own amnesty at the same time. The campaign is designed to take knives and offensive weapons out of circulation and make communities safer.

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said:

'The message of this campaign is simple - if you think you're protecting yourself by carrying a knife, you're not. Too many people think that carrying a knife will make them safer but the reality is quite the opposite as they run the real risk of having the knife turned back on them.

'Every weapon handed in is a weapon that can't be used in crime. I want to see people recognising the dangers of carrying a knife and using this opportunity to dispose of it before the police take action against them.

'Ordinary law-abiding citizens don't want to see their communities blighted by violence. Neither do we. We are working across government to reduce crime and reduce the fear of crime through legislation, law enforcement and closer working with communities. The knife amnesty will help us achieve that.'

Ian Johnston, ACPO spokesman on crime and chief constable of British Transport Police, said:

'Knives are very dangerous and it is unlawful to carry them for protection. People have been seriously injured or killed by knives in circumstances where those convicted state they had no intention of hurting anyone. Our message is simple - don't carry knives for protection; it is unlawful and it is dangerous.

'We will be working with our communities to take as many knives off the street as possible during the amnesty. During the campaign we will also be targeting operations to identify those unlawfully carrying knives with a view to prosecuting them. Help us to help you make our communities safer. Taking knives out of circulation will definitely contribute to this.'

The police will continue to carry out intelligence-led enforcement work to crack down on knife carrying and knife assisted crime. Only those people carrying knives to bins will be immune from prosecution.

Carrying knives is illegal and can result in up to four years in prison.

Notes

1) Current legislation:

* It is an offence to carry a knife in public without good reason or lawful authority, with the exception of a folding pocket-knife with a blade not exceeding three inches. Those found guilty face a penalty of up to two years imprisonment. Possession of an offensive weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse carries a maximum penalty of 4 years imprisonment. Certain knives, such as flick-knives, are categorised as offensive weapons.

* Manufacture, sale and importation of 17 bladed, pointed and other offensive weapons have been banned, in addition to flick knives and gravity knives. This includes stealth knives, disguised knives and batons which were banned in 2002 and 2004.

* It is an offence to market a knife in a way which indicates that it is suitable for combat, or is otherwise likely to stimulate violent behaviour. The police have powers to stop and search for knives and offensive weapons, in certain circumstances.

2) The Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords, contains measures which:

* increase the age at which a person can be sold a knife from 16 to 18;

* introduce powers for head teachers to search pupils for knives and offensive weapons;

* create a new offence of using another person to mind a weapon, and includes an aggravating factor on sentencing if the person involved is a child.

3) The government supports the work of the police in tackling knife crime, particularly through dedicated operations, such as Operation Blunt run by the Metropolitan Police and the British Transport

Police's Operation Shield. These operations include education,

community engagement and the use of technology for detecting knives.

4) The Connected Fund was set up in May 2004 to provide grants for

small community groups. Now in its fourth bidding round, the fund

has supported more than 150 local groups working on gun crime, knife crime and issues with gangs. Many of the projects work with young people, providing diversionary activities, education and training, peer mentoring and other support.

5) In addition to the Connected Fund, we have used recycled criminal assets to support local projects through the Government Offices for

the Regions. A total of£2m was allocated in 2004-05 and a

further£2m in£2005-06.

6)The Association of Chief Police Officers is an independent, professionally led strategic body. In the public interest and, in equal and active partnership with Government and the Association of Police Authorities, ACPO leads and co-ordinates the direction and development of the police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In times of national need ACPO, on behalf of all chief officers, co-ordinates the strategic policing response.

7) ACPO's 341 members are police officers of Assistant Chief Constable rank (Commanders in the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police) and above, and senior police staff managers, in the 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus national agencies such as the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad, and other forces such as British Transport Police and States of Jersey Police.

Scottish Executive press release

Knife amnesty to get blades off the streets

Bin your knife, it could save a life - that was the stark message today at thelaunch a national knife amnesty.

From today until the end of June, anyone handing in a blade to the police will not be prosecuted for possession while they are handing it in.

For the first time, the amnesty will operate right across Britain with the Home Office responsible for police forces south of the border.

Research after the four-week Operation Blade in Strathclyde in 1993 shows that a well-planned amnesty can have a substantial impact.

More than 4,500 weapons were surrendered in Strathclyde alone and in the subsequent 12 months murder rates fell by 26 per cent, attempted murder by 19 per cent, serious assault by 14 per cent and offensive weapons possession by 23 per cent.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said:

'It is worrying to hear young people say they carry a blade for their own protection. The fact is that carrying a knife makes a night out more likely to end in bloodshed, not less.

'People who start the night as the best of friends can end up on hospital beds or mortuary slabs - simply because they reached for a weapon. Start with a blade, throw in some drink or drugs and you create an explosive cocktail - with serious consequences for the perpetrator, their families and their whole community.

'I recognise that a knife amnesty alone cannot provide a long-term solution to tackling violence. However, alongside work to challenge the underlying culture and acceptability of carrying knives among some young men, it will support our efforts to create safer daily lives for the people of Scotland.

'We have done a lot in terms of the law - we are tightening up legislation in the Police Bill, giving the police more powers. The Lord Advocate is making changes to prosecution policy, clamping down harder on those who persist in carrying blades. So I say today to those with a knife - take this opportunity to get rid of it. Clear your conscience and help clear the streets of these deadly weapons.'

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of the Violence Reduction Unit, said:

'The knife amnesty is only one element in a 12 month long campaign aimed at tackling the culture of violence. A weapons surrender alone will not solve this deep rooted problem, however, it is part of the contain and manage phase of our long term violence reduction strategy.

'The amnesty is an opportunity for people to make that potentially life saving decision and hand in their locking knife or whatever weapon they chose to carry.

'I would appeal to anyone who carries a knife or whos considering carrying one, to think twice. No one leaves home with the intention of becoming a murderer, but that's the chance you take if you carry a knife. Id also appeal to parents - ask yourself the question - do you know if your son leaves home carrying a knife?'

The amnesty will be followed up by an intelligence gathering, then an enforcement phase.

Det Chief Supt Carnochan added:

'I want to warn knife carriers now, that after the amnesty we will be coming after you. Then when people are caught - whether they're engaging in violent behaviour or carrying a weapon - we will make sure they are brought before a court as quickly as possible.

'In the weeks and months ahead, we will be going after the most violent individuals who carry knives and engage in violent behaviour.

'We want to send out a strong message to individuals who engage in violent behaviour and carry weapons, that its no longer safe to carry a knife - because if you do, you will get stopped, searched and arrested.

The amnesty will cover the carrying of a knife in public, which would otherwise be an offence under section 47 or 49 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995.

Immunity will be provided only to those individuals who, in the act of handing in a knife at a police station or other disposal point, would otherwise commit an offence.

The Lord Advocate reserves his right to prosecute where there is evidence that the knife was used in the commission of another offence or where a person is caught in possession of a knife but claims that he or she was en route to hand it in at a police station or other disposal point.

The police will be able to check surrendered weapons to decide whether forensic examination is merited although it is expected that the vast majority of knives handed over will be destroyed.

Earlier this week, the Lord Advocate announced tough new measures to combat knife crime relating to how and when cases are reported by the police to Procurators Fiscal, the question of bail, and decision making by prosecutors particularly on the appropriate choice of court.

Last week Ms Jamieson announced that 100,000 pounds sterling was being made available to police forces via the VRU for metal detector wands to help them tackle knife crime.

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