Priti Patel warns Lords over bid to weaken knife crime laws

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The Home Secretary was speaking exclusively to the Sunday Express after a 13-year old and 24 year old were arrested on suspicion of stabbing a man to death in a west London street.

Ms Patel insisted that powers contained in a new bill, including enhanced stop and search, would save lives and prevent “a vicious cycle of reoffending”.

It was vital to “prevent future tragedies” she said. A record number of teenagers were killed on Britain’s streets last year with 30 teenagers and young men losing their lives in London alone.

The latest incident saw Dariusz Wolosz, a 46-year-old from Poland, attacked and killed by a group of men near his home in West London last week.

The Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill comes before the Lords this week, and Peers were warned that any attempt to delay it could cost lives.

Ms Patel has announced that the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill will include measures to create Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) that will give the police the power to stop and search adults who have previously been cautioned or convicted for knife or other offensive weapon crimes.

But the revelation comes as Labour plans to join the Lib Dems and some cross bench peers to seriously amend the bill which will bring in tough new sentences for crimes and include measures to tackle illegal protests from groups like Extinction Rebellion.

A senior Labour peer told the Sunday Express: “We have been told we are on a three line whip all week with this bill to make sure we can vote on the amendments.

“Our front bench has been in talks with the Lib Dems and some [independent] crossbenchers to push through a number of amendments.

But the Home Secretary told the Sunday Express that the new law was essential for tackling serious crime and preventing fatal stabbings.

Ms Patel, said: “As Home Secretary I have seen the devastation left behind by knife crime. Families of those who have died almost always say more could have been done to stop their loved one dying. We owe it to them to strengthen our laws and prevent future tragedies.

“Our efforts so far are working: serious violence and knife crime have fallen since 2019, but there is unfortunately a vicious cycle of reoffending when it comes to knife crime.

“I know that Sunday Express readers do not want to see known offenders released back onto the streets only to start carrying knives again – that is why the police should have the right to stop and search them to ensure this.

“What’s more, we should not be waiting for known knife carriers to wield them before the police intervene. That is why we are introducing new powers so the police can proactively search those who we know have previously carried a knife.

“Our Serious Violence Reduction Orders will steer more offenders away from a life of crime, while ensuring that if they persist, they are more likely to be caught and more lives will potentially be saved – which is what stop and search is all about.

She added: “This new power was a promise we made to the British people at the General Election and our proposals secured a majority in the House of Commons. The Lords must now vote them through and help prevent future loss of life.”

The law would provide for the police or prosecutors to apply for the Courts to grant a SVROs in an instance where an offender either used a knife or offensive weapon – or if they were carrying one unlawfully when committing another crime.

Stop and search is a vital power for police to prevent crime and its use saw 16,000 dangerous weapons removed from our streets last year.

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In support for the Government’s proposals, Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, named after a victim of knife crime in London  in 2008, said: “Once someone gets into the routine of carrying a knife, it becomes a habit which can lead to them being drawn into a lifetime of criminality. 

“Serious Violence Reduction Orders will enable the justice system to intervene with offenders who are finding it difficult to escape from the cycle of violence. It is essential that the justice system is proactive rather than reactive before it is too late for yet another family.” 

The Sunday Express has also learnt that Ms Patel and Attorney General Suella Benjamin have held talks with the influential Common Sense Group of Tory MPs chaired by former minister Sir John Hayes to consider changes to the bill in the wake of the “perverse” not guilty verdicts for the left wing protesters who pulled down Sir Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol.

In a letter to them and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, the group have asked for a change in the law to strengthen the powers of the Attorney General to have verdicts reviewed in the Court of Appeal.

The group suggested that changes might “strengthen the effective application of existing statutes, provide still clearer guidance for courts on directions by judges and grounds for acquittal, and take further steps to both deter and punish violent mobs of the kind that rampaged unpunished in Bristol.”

They described the four accused as “unrepentant, boastful, vandals” and it is understood that Ms Braverman is planning on taking the case to the Court of Appeal with her existing powers.

They questioned whether the trial should have been heard by a jury and if it should have taken place outside Bristol where the crime took place.

While accepting that the jury system is “a cornerstone” of British justice, the 24 MPs and peers added: “Faith in the rule of law and trust in the jury system are essential components of effective criminal justice, which is endangered when the public witnesses, with astonishment, patently absurd, perverse verdicts of this kind.”

Concerns over Labour being soft on crime and failing to stand up to protesters could have helped fuel a rally for the Conservatives in the polls after seeing support drop last month around allegations of lockdown busting Christmas parties in Whitehall.

The latest Opinium poll this weekend shows Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has dropped back to 5 points, down from 7. Labour’s vote share is at 39 percent, unchanged from late December, while the Conservatives are on 34 percent (+2). 

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