What is knife crime?

It is illegal to possess a knife in public without "good reason or lawful authority", except for folding pocket knives with blades of no more than three inches. You have to be able to show that you have a good reason for possession if you’re found with a knife in a public place, for example for a sporting purpose or as part of your job.

It’s illegal for a shop to sell any kind of knife to someone under 18. This includes kitchen knives and even cutlery.

Some knives are illegal for even adults to buy, they are:

  • Flick knives – also called ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’.
  • Butterfly knives
  • Disguised knives – in which the blade is hidden in something like a belt buckle or fake mobile phone.

Things to remember:

  • It is illegal to carry a knife or a gun, even an imitation one.
  • If you are caught with a knife, regardless of whether you say it was for your own protection or you were carrying it for someone else, you will be arrested and prosecuted.
  • Possession of a knife can carry a prison sentence of up to 4 years even if it’s not used.
  • If you stab somebody and they die, you will face a life sentence and will serve a minimum prison sentence of 25 years.
  • If someone is injured or killed by a knife in your presence, even if you’re not the one using the weapon, you too could be prosecuted. You could be sent to prison for murder in what is referred to as ‘joint enterprise’. This is a law that means if you are at the scene of a crime and involved in an attack in which someone is killed with a knife you could be charged with murder - even though you were not the one carrying the knife. It means all those taking part in an attack that leads to someone's death could be found guilty.Last year (2019) in Staffordshire there were 653 knife crimes and in 124 cases the victim was a young person (under 18). Worryingly, 110 young people were caught committing a crime whilst carrying a knife.

Ditch the Blade is focused on encouraging conversations about knife crime, an issue which needs to be tackled by everyone working together. As a parent or carer you can help by starting a conversation with your child/children about the dangers of carrying a knife, so they know that help and support is available. That they have a choice and you’re there to listen.

How to dispose of knives

If you have a knife you wish to dispose of we would encourage you to hand it in. In every home in the county you will find kitchen knives but this option is designed to allow the disposal of other knives which are surplus to requirements, such as ornamental, ex-military or combat style weapons, which could easily end or ruin a life if used recklessly.

Unfortunately, the majority of knives and bladed articles that we find young people in possession of have come from their own homes, so if you don’t need it - just bin it. You can do so without any risk of prosecution at either Burton, Cannock or Longton police stations. You can dispose of normal kitchen knives at many recycling centres, where they can be placed in the scrap metal containers.

Signs you might want to talk to your child about knife crime:

  • They have become withdrawn from family and school, they’ve changed their behaviour and/or are skipping school
  • They have lost interest in hobbies and old friends, and now hang around with a new group, staying out late and they’re vague about where they’re going
  • They become secretive and defensive easily, particularly about what’s in their bag and might even have told you that they need to carry a knife
  • You’ve noticed knives are missing from the house or may even have found one in your child’s bag or coat.

These things may seem easily explained as part of the difficult teenage years, but it’s still important to talk to young people about knife crime.

How to begin a conversation

Pick a place and a time where you can comfortably chat together. Your child might be reluctant to talk to you, so it might help to start by watching a relevant video or news article.

Ask them if they understand what knife crime is about. Be patient, get them talking, reassure them that they can be honest with you about their fears and worries. You are there to listen and support them.

Worried about someone carrying a knife?

If you want to make a report about a child carrying a knife please call Staffordshire Police on 101, we may also be able to offer crime prevention advice and guidance.

If you are a parent or carer and you are worried about a child you can seek guidance and support from your local safeguarding team:

  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Safeguarding Referral Team can be contacted on 01782 235100, or out of hours 01782 234234
  • If you live in another area of Staffordshire, you can contact Staffordshire County Council’s First Response on 0800 1313 126, or out of hours 0345 6042 886

As a parent, carer or other family member you have a really important influence on young people; you can have a really powerful effect and support them to make positive choices. It might be a difficult conversation to have – but talking about knife carrying is critical to finding a solution.

Help for young people

There are many independent agencies that can provide children and young people with confidential help and advice:

Victim Support 0808 1689 111

There for anyone who has been affected by crime, regardless of whether it was reported or how long ago it happened. Victim Support will provide free, confidential support so you can move forward.

Childline 0800 1111

Counsellors are there for young people 24/7. They can help and support with any issue they’re going through, no matter how big or small.

Fearless (Crimestoppers) www.fearless.org

Fearless is an independent charity that allows people to pass on information about crime 100% anonymously. They provide a route for passing details of crime securely and safely via the Fearless website.