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Children could have social media access limited in new Asbo-style measures to tackle rising knife crime

The measures are designed to prevent kids becoming involved in gangs. Credit: ITV News

Children could have their access to social media limited in new Asbo-style orders designed to tackle spiralling knife violence.

Knife Crime Prevention Orders could be issued to anyone aged 12 or over who is believed by police to routinely carry a blade.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled the preventative measures that are designed to steer young people away from becoming involved in criminal activity.

The proposals could also be imposed on people with prior convictions for knife-related offences.

Suspects could be required to abide by curfews and geographical restrictions, and attend knife crime awareness courses.

The orders could also include restricting access to particular sites or barring contact with specific people online in order to prevent the “rapid escalation” of gang rivalries.

Concerns have been repeatedly raised that material posted on the internet fuels feuds that spill out into violence on the streets.

Although they are civil orders, any breaches of them will be a criminal offence that could result in up to two years in prison upon conviction.

But critics have called the orders "flawed".

On Wednesday night, the Home Secretary visited Brixton Police station where he listened in on a brief ahead of an operation which aimed to target problem areas associated with knife crime.

Children as young as 12 are caught up in knife crime. Credit: ITV News

What do the new civil orders give police the power to do?

  • Place curfews on children over 12
  • Limiting their social media use
  • Putting geographical restrictions on individuals
  • Encourage young people to go to education classes about the risks of carrying a knife
  • Working with Trading Standards to target retailers who sell knives to children

He said: “I have been clear that I will do everything in my power to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives.

“The police already have a range of measures they are using to keep our streets safe, but there is more we can do to help them in this battle.

“I have listened to their calls and will be introducing these new orders to stop gang members carrying knives in the first place.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid during a visit to Brixton police station Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

“It is vital we continue to focus on improving the law enforcement response while at the same time steering young people away from criminal activity in the first place.”

The Home Office said the measures fill a gap which is not covered by existing preventative orders such as gang injunctions and criminal behaviour orders.

Asked whether he thinks Knife Crime Prevention Orders will make a difference, Mr Javid admitted that on their own they will not be enough.

Labour claimed there is “no serious evidence” to support the orders.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “The Tories have rushed out this measure late in the day because they are completely failing to tackle knife crime, and serious violent crime of all types.”

Sarah Jones, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime, said the Government’s proposal is “flawed”.

She said: “Imprisoning a young person, as young as 12 years old, for two years for breaching this order is completely disproportionate.

“It risks criminalising a generation of young people who have grown up unsupported and who often turn to carrying weapons out of fear.”

The Labour MP described knife crime as an “epidemic which the government has failed to grip”.

Credit: PA Graphics

Mark Burns-Williamson, chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, backed the new orders but warned legislation alone “will not stop the rising tide of serious violence”.

Ministers have come under sustained pressure over knife crime following a surge in serious violence, including fatal stabbings.

London suffered a particularly bloody 2018, while figures released last week showed police-recorded violent crime had risen by nearly a fifth in England and Wales.

Forces also registered an 8% increase in offences involving a knife or sharp instrument.

The Government will seek to amend the Offensive Weapons Bill to introduce the Knife Crime Prevention Orders.

In another step, the Home Office announced a new £500,000 fund to help Trading Standards teams secure the prosecution of retailers who repeatedly sell knives to under-18s.