When Justice Secretaries and Ministers want to show their toughness on crime they turn to knives: eg in January 2009 Labour Minister David Hanson M.P. announced that anyone convicted of a knife related offence and sentenced to the maximum 300 hours of community payback would complete their sentence in intensive blocks. Fine oratory certainly and he added, â€œThis is now being extended to include all knife crime offenders given any amount of community payback as part of their sentence. They will now have to do at least 18 hours of work a week." Considering that in 2007 (I cannot source more recent figures) only about 41,000 offenders received sentences of community payback it is unlikely that more than a handful received the maximum of 300 hours. And that is for all offences. The number therefore receiving 300 hours for a knife related offence can hardly be in three figures. Current guidelines indicate that for the lowest level of knife crime; possession of a bladed article, the starting point is high level community order. Indeed applying the guideline case "Povey", a first time adult offender convicted after trial would expect 12 weeks custody if the article were a knife. And true to form the current Secretary of State Chris Grayling M.P. has had his headlines on sentencing for knife crime. All this is background to what really happens as opposed to the fine words from Whitehall which apparently have not been heard in Blackpool.
All courts have security barriers and metal detectors operated by security companies. At Blackpool Magistrates` Court in the last year 50 knives and 5 bladed articles have been detected and confiscated from those entering the building. A court building with security officials, CPS personnel and police officers going about their business and prima facia evidence of offending would lead one to think that arrests would be made, charges laid and offenders prosecuted. One would be mistaken. According to the spokesman of that august organisation, Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunals Service, that same organisation which brought us chaos in the contracting of court interpreters, â€œIt is for the police to decide on what action is taken against an individual where the items surrendered or seized are referred to the police. HMCTS takes the issue of security within courts extremely seriously.â€
It is beyond belief that this is actually happening in England in 2013. I would hate to think of what would happen if HMCTS did not take the issue of security extremely seriously.