Offensive Weapons Bill

It is important to ensure more work is done to break the deadly cycle of violence that devastates the lives of individuals, families and communities. I know the Government shares this position and is taking action to ensure the sale and possession of dangerous weapons is prevented.

I welcome the Serious Violence Strategy to help tackle recent increases in serious violence. This Government action supports a multi-strand approach including robust law enforcement, early intervention and prevention.

A key element of the strategy is the Offensive Weapons Bill. The Bill contains a range of measures to update and strengthen the law on the sale of corrosive substances, ban the delivery of knives and corrosives bought online to residential addresses and ban the possession of weapons including zombie knives, knuckle dusters and death stars both in public and private. The Bill will also make it harder for young people to buy knives and acid online.

I firmly believe that the Government has a duty to safeguard the public and to take action in this area.

While it is the case that overall crime continues to fall, the Government recognises that there has been an increase in violent crime offences recorded by the police since late 2014. However, it has made clear that it is determined "to break the deadly cycle of violence that devastates the lives of individuals, families and communities".

The Serious Violence Strategy sets out the Government's response to recent increases in knife crime, gun crime and homicide, outlining a programme working with a range of Government Departments and partnerships across a number of sectors. It aims to consolidate the range of work already being taken forward and, according to the Government, demonstrates its ambition to go further with significant new proposals. The strategy was commissioned by the then Home Secretary and is backed with £40 million of Home Office funding.

The approach is explicitly not solely focused on law enforcement but depends on partnerships across a number of sectors such as education, health, social services, housing, youth services, and victim services. In particular it seeks the support of "communities thinking about what they can themselves do to help prevent violent crime happening in the first place and how they can support measures to get young people and young adults involved in positive activities". The overarching message is that tackling serious violence is not a law enforcement issue alone, but that it requires a multiple strand approach involving a range of partners across different sectors.

The strategy sets out analysis of the evidence and the trends and drivers of serious violent crime. The evidence shows that:

  • While overall crime continues to fall, homicide, knife crime and gun crime have risen since 2014 across virtually all police force areas in England and Wales. Robbery has also risen sharply since 2016.
  • These increases have been accompanied by a shift towards younger victims and perpetrators. Most of the violence is also male on male.
  • About half the rise in robbery, knife and gun crime is due to improvements in police recording. For the remainder, drug-related cases seem to be an important driver.
  • Between 2014/15 and 2016/17, homicides where either the victim or suspect were known to be involved in using or dealing illicit drugs increased from 50 per cent to 57 per cent.
  • Crack cocaine markets have strong links to serious violence and evidence suggests crack use is rising in England and Wales due to a mix of supply and demand factors.

· Drug-related cases also seem to be one of the driving factors in the homicide increase in the United States. Drug-market violence may also be facilitated and spread to some extent by social media. A small minority are using social media to glamorise gang or drug-selling life, taunt rivals and normalise weapons carrying. There has also been an increase in vulnerable groups susceptible to related exploitation and/or drug use.

The strategy itself is framed on four key themes:

  • tackling county lines and misuse of drugs;
  • early intervention and prevention;
  • supporting communities and partnerships; and
  • an effective law enforcement and criminal justice response.

The then Home Secretary, on the launch of the strategy, said:

"This strategy represents a real step-change in the way we think about and respond to these personal tragedies, these gruesome violent crimes which dominate the front pages of our newspapers with seemingly depressing regularity.”

"A crucial part of our approach will be focusing on and investing more in prevention and early intervention. We need to engage with our young people early and to provide the incentives and credible alternatives that will prevent them from being drawn into crime in the first place. This in my view is the best long-term solution. Because what better way to stop knife crime than by stopping young people from picking up knives in the first place?"

I hope this provides some clarity on the government's aims and strategies for targeting this crime.