New guidelines relating to being in possession of either bladed articles and/or offensive weapons were published on Thursday 1st March 2018. These new guidelines are set to take effect from the 1st June 2018.
The new guidelines have come into place in order to tackle the significant increase of not only knife crime but acid crime as well.
What is an Offensive Weapon?
The new guidelines include acid as a type of offensive weapon and the wording of the guidelines suggests that acid (or other corrosive material) are seen as “a highly dangerous weapon”. The argument being that if someone has it in their possession without a legitimate reason, there intention must be to either use or threaten to use it on someone, causing that person potentially life changing injuries.
What is the Penalty for Possession?
According to these guidelines, there will also be a significant increase in custodial sentences that are recommended as starting points for those caught in possession of an offensive weapon.
One example of this is if an individual who is 18 years old is found to be in possession of a bladed article whilst at school/college, he/she is liable to receiving a sentence of 18 months in prison. This headline figure is of course a starting point and does not take into account mitigating factors, but it highlights the significant increase in punishment as prior to these guidelines the sentence would have been closer to 6 months.
The guidelines make it clear that the minimum statutory sentence must be adhered to, except when the circumstances of the offence or that of the offender make this term ‘unjust in all of the circumstances.’ At which point the court must either propose a shorter sentence or an alternative penalty.
These guidelines are not intended to change the way offenders are sentenced when they are charged with using an offensive weapon to threaten or cause fear when the offence was committed in dangerous circumstances. This offence comes under wounding with/without intent, or if there was a homicide resulting in a murder or manslaughter charge. These cases are dealt with at the Crown Court.
The Sentencing Council have taken the decision that the only way to deter young people from carrying weapons is by sending out a very public message that if you carry weapons, you are going to prison.
Author, Nicholas De Freitas, is Director of Crime at Duncan Lewis’ Harrow branch. Nicholas has extensive expertise in all criminal matters, representing both private and legal aid eligible clients. As a Higher Rights Advocate, he has experience in a wide range of criminal proceedings and he has acted as Junior Counsel in a number of murder cases and complex fraud trials.
For expert advice on any criminal defence matter, call Nicholas on 020 3114 1150 or email him at nicholasd@Duncanlewis.com.
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