Experts View

New! All new! New and improved! And…now, with added measures! These are the kind of phrases that sprang to mind when I began researching the alarming rise in the incidents of ‘Knife Crimes’ on the streets of Britain in recent years, along with Home Office measures to combat it! This issue was highlighted for me by this family’s personal tragedy, the loss of my Son Westley to a fatal, unprovoked stabbing at a cash machine on the 12th September, 2005.


Disturbing Truth! Judge for yourself…By Ann Oakes-Odger


Since this time I have watched the weekly, sometimes daily reports of knife fatalities.  The disturbing truth that impacted, like being hit by an ‘Express Train‘ is this…‘someone’s child in Britain dies every week from a ‘Knife attack’ - fatal stabbings outnumber fatal gun deaths in the UK by more than three to one’.  We desperately need ‘tough remedies in the form of stiff Sentences’…not just ‘tough talk’.  The Violent Crime Reduction Bill was introduced on the 8th June, 2005 to include a number of specific remedies for dealing with ’the carrying of knives’.  Said by the Government to be ’tough measures’ to tackle the rising tide of ’Knife Culture‘…sweeping our streets!


Further legislation has been introduced in 2012...see below along with other current Legislation that relates to knives:-


The Prevention of Crime Act 1953

Prohibits the carrying of any offensive weapon in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. A public place includes private premises to which the public have access. An offensive weapon is defined as any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person, or intended by the person for such use. Maximum penalty: Six months imprisonment and/or £5000 fine.

The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959

Prohibited the manufacture, sale, hire or offer for sale or hire, and importation of flick knives and gravity knives. Maximum penalty: Six months imprisonment and/or £5000 fine.

The Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 1988

Created an offence of having an article with a blade or point in a public place without good reason or lawful excuse. An exemption applies to folding pocket knives with a blade of less that three inches. (In my view this is a nonsense…three inches ‘kills‘. This was proven to be the size of the knife that killed Westley). Maximum penalty: Up to two years imprisonment.

CJA 1988 also prohibited the manufacture, sale, hire, offer for sale or hire of a range of weapons specified in the Criminal Justice Act (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988. These are mainly items designed to cause serious injury, for example knuckledusters, handclaws and certain Martial Arts equipment, or those which can be easily concealed, including swordsticks. Maximum penalty: Six months imprisonment and/or £5000 fine.

Offensive Weapons Act 1996 - amended the 1988 Act

To prohibit the sale of knives and certain articles with a blade or point to persons under the age of 16. Maximum penalty: Six months imprisonment and/or £5000 fine.

Knives Act 1997

Created offences relating to the unlawful marketing of knives as suitable for combat, or in ways likely to stimulate or encourage violent behaviour. It also extended the power to stop and search in anticipation of violence contained in the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994. Maximum penalty: Six months imprisonment and/or £5000 fine. (It is interesting, this figure for a fine is the same as that imposed in 1953...£5000. In 1953 this would probably have bought 5 or 6 terraced houses on the outskirts of London).

Section 60 of the Criminal Justice & Order Act 1994, as amended by the Knives Act 1997 - contains a power under which an Officer or Inspector rank or above could, in certain circumstances, authorise Police Officers within a given area to stop and search for offensive weapons.

Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006

Since the introduction of the Violent Crime Reduction Bill on the 9th June, 2005 further provisions and amendments were made in October, 2006 to raise the minimum age to buy a knife from 16 to 18. The maximum sentence for carrying a knife without good reason was also increased from 2 years to 4 years, along with giving Teachers more power to search pupils for weapons - Royal Assent of this Bill, November, 2006! And, there you have it…Legislation, and plenty of it! It’s a wonder anyone ever gets charged with an offence at all…Police are too busy trying to keep up with the Laws?

Home Office records show that the number of people killed with a sharp instrument in 1994 was 231. In 2005 that number was a near identical 236 out of the total number of murders of 820. But this year reported knife incidents have taken a turn for the worse…the British Crime Survey suggests that the number of muggers using knives increased dramatically from 24,290 to 42,020 - a rise of 73%. There were 110 serious attacks between May and June this year, 23 fatalities during the 5 weeks of the Knife Amnesty.

In total 3,511 people were convicted of carrying a knife or blade in the year 2000 compared with 5,784 in 2004! The number of children aged 12 to 14 convicted of carrying knives at school doubled between 2000 and 2004 to 170. The Youth Justice Board announced that carrying a ’bladed weapon’ was the most common offence among children excluded from school! In 2004 the British Crime Survey estimated that 60,000 children aged 11 to 16 were routinely carrying knives…it’s frightening to consider the implications of this growing trend.


Anecdotal evidence suggests that those carrying knives claim ’they do so for protection’…deaths and serious injuries are often caused by their own weapon, that has been turned on them! In an attempt to reverse this trend a Nationwide Knife Amnesty was started on the 24th May which ended on the 30th June, 2006 and netted 90,000 bladed weapons…sadly however, the incidents are still on the increase. In Essex alone knife incidents run at something in the region of six or more, per week!


Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment Act 2012

New measures intended to reduce Knife Crime:


Crown Prosecution Service Sentencing Manual:




As Westley Odger’s Mother, I know all too well the consequences and devastation of Knives on our Streets! I repeat what I have already said many times…“the Government’s plans to ’get tough’ on knife crime will be nothing more than ’spin’ unless tough penalties are properly imposed.  Lets have ’action’ not more ’pledges’…what do you think?  Every child has the right to study at school in a safe environment, walk the streets with safety.  Furthermore, every parent and member of the public needs this too!


Most people I speak to agree with this view...?“






















E. & O.E.