Not the right sort of person


by Laurie Penny    
9:09 am - June 13th 2008

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Yesterday, on emerging from the bowels of the Picadilly line as is my wont at half six on a Thursday, I was dismayed to see a wall of armoured police surrounding a pair of electronic weapons-detecting barriers through which the good residents of Wood Green were being made to walk.

So I took it upon myself to engage a couple of members of Her Majesty’s Constabulary in conversation.

‘Why are the scanners up again?’

‘It’s a deterrent. You know, knife crime. You watch the news, don’t you?’

‘So what are they for?’

‘Well, to see if anyone’s carrying a knife.’

‘Is it against the law to refuse to go through, then? Say, what would happen if I just walked right round the edge?’

‘Well, you’re not exactly carrying a knife, are you?!’ Sner sner, oi lads look at the sweet little white girl in her cardie trying to be clever.

I tried a different tack. ‘So, how do these barriers tell if you’re carrying a knife rather than just, say, any old metal?’

‘They don’t. They’re quite neanderthal really. They just flash red when someone’s got metal.’

‘But hang on. The lights are flashing red for every other person. Why aren’t you stopping all those people?’

‘Well…’ indulgent little police-officer smile turns into get-rid-of-this-member-of-the-public grin ‘look, we just use our judgement – say, if someone like your good self set off the buzzers, well,’ looks me up and down ‘you’re clearly not the sort of person to be carrying a knife, are you?’

‘So what sort of people would you stop and search, then?’

‘Well, you watch the news.’

‘Of course I watch the news. What sort of people would you stop?’

‘You know, the sort of people who commit crimes. You watch the news.’

‘You haven’t answered my question.’

‘Are you a journalist?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘My colleagues and I aren’t trained for this. Bugger off and call the press office and go through those barriers while you’re about it.’

Stunned, I marched through the ancient plastic barriers, the metal buckles on my boots winking.

And the lights flashed red.

And nobody stopped me.

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About the author
Laurie Penny is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a journalist, blogger and feminist activist. She is Features Assistant at the Morning Star, and blogs at Penny Red and for Red Pepper magazine.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Crime

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Reader comments


Agh, this makes me want to cry. It’s the same sort of approach as putting up anti-terrorist barriers all along Whitehall. It makes the government look tough, the ‘technical’ solution does not actually work, you drive the problem elsewhere, and this lets the police pick out people they think look dodgy. I better not have a few days of stubble the next time I take the Piccadilly Line.

Best let my dad know about this for when he comes back from holiday. He’s a very dark-skinned guy with a big grey beard.

3. Steve B, UK

*Weeps quietly*

I used to have to transport a small ceremonial knife (wrapped and inaccessible at the bottom of a bag) to meetings as part of my religion. I no longer do this.
I’m also a martial artist.
I’m also a scientist, and a geeky white guy with boring hair. I would not have been stopped.

The fact that I would be completely trustworthy with a knife is not the point. He wasn’t saying he’d stop everyone with a blade (as the law presumably demands?) He said he’d stop those who *look like the sort of people who commit crimes*.

Absolutely unacceptable, shameful, both draconian and ineffective, and prejudiced against the poor and minorities. AGAIN.

While I’m here I’ll mention the equally stupid law against buying “curved swords”… because it’s not the object, it’s the nutter behind it, and two or three madmen getting shot by police is not a legitimate reason to penalise all re-enactors, martial artists, collectors, anyone who just always wanted one… for goodness sake people, if I wanted to attack someone I could do it with a SHOE. If a psycho wants a big weapon that can do harm, he can buy a chainsaw or any one of a variety of common tools. I’m against guns, because the minimum harm is so off-the-scale and so easy. I’m against knives being carried on the street. But laws against buying or owning are crazy.

If we believe blanket bans are the right answer (and with concealed knives they could be, although I’d like more exemptions for certain groups) then let’s at least enforce the ban properly…

Stunning, probably the most incisive article I’ve read on here in some time.

Anyone here played HalfLife 2?

*sigh*

Steve – hah, you sound exactly like my housemate. Who also carries knives and very realistic looking model swords around London for faith and fun. However, he’s got a beard and a suspicious aspect and has been stopped by police. When they did this, they gave no reason except ‘section 44 of the Terrorism Act.’ They actually don’t need to give a reason for frisking you anymore! You just need to look dodgy, or be….well….a black boy wearing the wrong clothes.

Aaron – Yes. *shudder*

7. Steve B, UK

I’d like to publicly state that I no longer carry knives for any reason :)
Y’know, I’m just saying.

Even though my religious knife
a) would actually become invalid religiously if it was ever used to cut anything, and
b) was far smaller and safer than a new kitchen knife you can buy on the high street…

That’s why I’ll be staying in Oxford over the summer, then.

I can only see this further alienating the members of society that already feel insecure enough in themselves to need to carry a knife in the first place. Sure, they may catch a few people, but in the end it’ll just drive the underlying social problems that cause knife crime further and further underground. Violence met with an increasingly opaque face of authoritarianism will only lead to worse and worse things happening.

As a matter of curiosity, is there any information on who gave the order to set up these barriers?

Security theatre.

Martin Amis would be pleased.

6. Yep, luckily for me if that (HL2) was to be the situation I’m not a bearded, geeky, bespectacled tall guy.

Oh…wait… shiiit :(

Incisive ? It’s the anti-police tone that ruins it for me by making it appear prejudiced and biased. In the very first answer given the officer says ” It’s a deterrent…”. There you have it. Quite simple really. It’s designed to stop people carrying knives in the first place because of the fear they will get caught. Perhaps the author could suggest a better way to take knives off the streets rather than trying to score cheap points

Steve: how well does it work as a deterrent if it’s an open secret that inoffensive-looking white people *won’t* get caught, precisely?

14. Matt Munro

Can’t see the problem with what the police are doing . Your sanctmonious tone (gosh some of these burly police types clearly haven’t even got a third in social sciences from Hull……) and self conciously righeous indignation (how many knife crimes are comitted by white, middle class women FFS ?) is absolutely pathetic. Would you rather get stabbed for your mobile phone or have to walk through a barrier ?
What’ s your point exactly, that knife carrying criminals (and they all are by definition, criminals) are having their rights violated, or that we should have armies of social workers at tube stations, looking at the socio ecomomic factors and underlying causes of knife carrying ?

Laura,

It’s certainly not an open secret that “Inoffensive-looking white people” won’t get caught. The type of person (target group) that carries a knife for offensive use is not going to be able to work that out anyway. Trust me, these are not clever people. All they will see/hear about is the scanners and hopefully the fear of being arrested will make them think twice.

Sccye : you are spouting rubbish.

“I can only see this further alienating the members of society that already feel insecure enough in themselves to need to carry a knife in the first place”

Why do they need to carry a knife in the first place ? Why should they feel alienated ? Assuming they are carrying a knife only for reasons of self-defence then surely they’d welcome anything that might reduce their chance of being attacked with a knife. They wouldn’t need to carry a knife then would they.

“…..but in the end it’ll just drive the underlying social problems that cause knife crime further and further underground.”

Tackling underlying social problems is not really the police’s remit. Their job is to make the streets safer by taking the knives and the people who carry them out of circulation.

“Violence met with an increasingly opaque face of authoritarianism will only lead to worse and worse things happening.”

What would you suggest then as a response to violent crime ? Hugs ? Support groups ? Free money ?

“Perhaps the author could suggest a better way to take knives off the streets rather than trying to score cheap points”

Let’s see, I wonder how many people with knives actually go through the miniscule amount of checks the police put up? If I had a knife at the station Laurie was at I would simply turn around and get on a tube/train to the next station. Hardly a deterrent, but does make more money for London transport, so I guess there are positives in every cloud, eh? It always sounds hollow, but education is the key, not authoritarian visual aids.

“Would you rather get stabbed for your mobile phone or have to walk through a barrier ?”

Would you rather get stabbed than implanted with a hypothetical chip that tracks you and everything you do? Where do you stop with this kind of inane logic, Matt? I didn’t think the author had a problem with walking through barriers, she had a problem with them being ineffectual.

Terrorists listen up, if you want to get a bomb past the London Met, have a shave, apply some foundation and dress like a business man with your bomb in your expensive briefcase. That way you’ll get a salute from the boys in blue as you cause another mass atrocity. Fucking ridiculous.

“Why do they need to carry a knife in the first place ? Why should they feel alienated ? Assuming they are carrying a knife only for reasons of self-defence then surely they’d welcome anything that might reduce their chance of being attacked with a knife.”

Do you actually know why people carry knives, or are you only taking one of many possible hypotheticals and using it as a general and universal point as to prove why these pointless gates are worthwhile?

Laurie on the otherhand has just shown that the police do not use the gates to detect anyone other than people they would already have potentially pulled over due to their own prejudices and discrimination anyway. You might as well forget using the gates and just ask all black and asian kids to exit via the police manned exit only for mandatory stop and search.

It’s not about making the streets safer it’s about making people feel safer. That is security theatre. Some may think this is a good use of public money, but let’s not pretend it is anything more than theatre.

I think it is well worth reading a report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, particularly its conclusion.

Lee, I probably know better than you why people carry knives, having asked several of them why they do it. I suspect you have just read books about it.

“Laurie on the otherhand has just shown that the police do not use the gates to detect anyone other than people they would already have potentially pulled over due to their own prejudices and discrimination anyway. You might as well forget using the gates and just ask all black and asian kids to exit via the police manned exit only for mandatory stop and search.”

How has she shown that ? She has put forward a point of view, nothing more. I still believe that the gates are a deterrent to knife carrying. Nothing more.
Police can’t search someone just because they are black or asian,nor can they search someone under S1 PACE just because they have metal objects on their person. In that respect the gates are useless because they won’t actually catch many offenders. They might have some deterrent value though.

Martin Amis would be pleased.

hah! I was gonna say that, damn you.

21. Steve B, UK

Matt: “>>What’ s your point exactly, that knife carrying criminals (and they all are by definition, criminals) are having their rights violated, or that we should have armies of social workers at tube stations, looking at the socio ecomomic factors and underlying causes of knife carrying ?”

No, if the law says that carrying knives is illegal then I want that enforced. On everybody who carries a knife, and is therefore a criminal. Not on everyone who has a face the copper on the street decides he doesn’t like.

Given the conversation, Laurie’s “tone” is entirely justified. Once again Labour is using a blunt instrument to treat the symptom, not the cause, and then failing to properly do even that.

I’ve not read any books on the subject, unlike your anecdotal sample upon which we only have your word to take. You obviously severely outclass me on knowledge of the subject *rolls eyes*. My point was we *don’t* know what is causing the rise in knife crime (to my knowledge there has been no quantifiable study) and so we cannot say that this is an effective measure in stopping it…which leads me on to..

“How has she shown that ? She has put forward a point of view, nothing more.”

She has shown that police operating one of these areas is willing to let people through if they “don’t look” like they’d carry a knife. How hard is it to understand that this is an important and qualified view?

“Police can’t search someone just because they are black or asian,nor can they search someone under S1 PACE just because they have metal objects on their person.”

Well then what is the fucking point of the machines? I take complete exception to your idea that police cannot simply search someone in either situation, you’re absolutely wrong. Police cannot stop and search anyone for no reason, you’re right…they can only stop and search if they have reasonable suspision. These machines allow the police to claim reasonable suspision over your person. And given how we have a FIRST HAND account that shows the police aren’t stopping little white women and are only stopping people that “look like” the sort that would carry knives, these detectors become nothing other than a way to circumvent the restriction on stop and search powers.

Yes they can’t stop black and asians that don’t beep but they can stop vast swatches of them they wouldn’t have been able to before simply because they have a belt buckle on!

And as for deterrence, I point you back to my previous point. There are too few of these devices, and too little appropriate use when they’re deployed, for them to be a deterrent. They have 244 arches for the whole of London as far as I’m aware. They are a pointless exercise in posturing and cynically an easy case of avoiding the restrictions on stop and search powers to prevent discrimination.

Altogether now: -

“One more prejudiced policeman to line us up against the wall. There was one more …”

This is a case of technology being used to justify suspicion, not to replace it or remove it – therefore it does absolutely nothing to reduce the fear of crime, on the contrary it reaffirms it.

Neither is it used effectively (those who set it off aren’t stopped), nor does it use precious resources efficiently (don’t those valuable policeman have some forms they could be filling in instead?) – so the episode reminds me of the old truth in the order that ‘politics leads intelligence to make behaviour’. And the Police are supposed to rise above this to retain their legitimacy.

Steve,

Police can’t search someone just because they are black or asian,nor can they search someone under S1 PACE just because they have metal objects on their person. In that respect the gates are useless because they won’t actually catch many offenders. They might have some deterrent value though.

If you’re saying an alarm on the metal detector doesn’t constitute reasonable grounds for suspicion that the individual is carrying a knife, fine.

However, I don’t see why s60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 can’t be used.

Steve,

‘Police can’t search someone just because they are black or asian’

In fact, they can, and they do. Under S44 of the Terrorism Act 2003, the police actually don’t have to give a reason for stopping and searching you at all. They just write the relevant law down on the form.

Ah but thomas, something must be seen to be done, even though it is of no use in detecting criminals.

Lee, you asked me if I know why people carry knives and I respond that I have asked (in interview) several people exactly that question. You are making this into a pissing contest now. You can roll your eyes all you like but you can’t deny that I have valid information on this subject. As regards S1 PACE stop and search powers – I personally would not expect to be searched when the only grounds are that I set off a metal detector.
I say again for Lee’s benefit because he hasn’t grasped what my position is : The scanners are designed to be a deterrent, nothing more. Who actually knows whether they work or not ? They might work, but how do you measure their effectiveness ? I don’t believe that they just give the police one more excuse to search black and asian people. I have stopped/searched and arrested several people for carrying knives or other offensive weapons. Guess what…all were white. So why would I want to particularly target non white people ? Unless I’m a racist of course.

“She has shown that police operating one of these areas is willing to let people through if they “don’t look” like they’d carry a knife. How hard is it to understand that this is an important and qualified view?”

It’s hardly incisive is it? In fact it’s pretty damn obvious. However “don’t look like” doesn’t mean white. “sweet little white girl in her cardie….” is where this strays into an opinion and not a report. The officer didn’t mention race, appearance, age, etc etc.

I accept one point that you make though. “… And given how we have a FIRST HAND account that shows the police aren’t stopping little white women and are only stopping people that “look like” the sort that would carry knives….”

I’ll come out and say it then… there will always be an element of profiling or the only truly fair way is to search everyone or no-one. How many pensioners, for example, would you expect to be carrying knives in public, or mothers with children. In my experience, knives brandished in public are rarely actually used anyway, and it is by young males wearing sports clothing and hoodies. And they all say they need it for self defence because loads of other young lads carry knives too apparently.

ukliberty : S60 could be used but it needs to be authorised in advance by an Inspector and applied within a specified area and timeframe. An authorisation should only be granted if there was information to suggest that disorder involving weapons was going to take place.

thomas : personally I’d use the resources elsewhere. If one accepts that they act only as a high-profile visual deterrent then it probably is also the case that they could help re-inforce the perception that knife crime is worse than it actually is.

ukliberty, something must be seen to be done only in the event that nothing is being done. So seeing something happen means the police and the law are failing.

What you are talking about is political necessity, not actual necessity.

Furthermore Laurie’s experience of the detectors should prove how wide the gulf between perception and reality is.

Pennyred : stop twisting what I said please.

‘Police can’t search someone just because they are black or asian’

“In fact, they can, and they do. Under S44 of the Terrorism Act 2003, the police actually don’t have to give a reason for stopping and searching you at all. They just write the relevant law down on the form”.

You are clearly very intelligent and you know fine well what I meant. The law does not allow S1 PACE searches based on race only. As for the Terrorism Act it also doesn’t apply to any particular group.

thomas :

“ukliberty, something must be seen to be done only in the event that nothing is being done. So seeing something happen means the police and the law are failing.

What you are talking about is political necessity, not actual necessity.”

I suspect you are right..

You are clearly very intelligent and you know fine well what I meant. The law does not allow S1 PACE searches based on race only. As for the Terrorism Act it also doesn’t apply to any particular group.

The point isn’t that though. The point is, they don’t have to give a reason why they might stop someone brown like me. They just are. It’s “random” like, everytime I head to the USA.

33. steve6690

Sunny : It’s open to abuse of course, like so many other things.

I don’t think the police or law are failing in as much as it doesn’t seem to be a problem that can be wholly solved by applying the law.

Yes, “something must be seen to be done” is a political necessity.

I find it difficult to get across wryness in this medium.

“You can roll your eyes all you like but you can’t deny that I have valid information on this subject.”

Yes I can, I can say this. You have interviewed “several” people, you have asked them some questions (which we can’t scrutinise here), you haven’t done an empirical study and you haven’t (from what you’re saying) used an accurate sample size let alone my concerns over whether it’s a random one. Me asking a few mates what they think about global warming is no more “valid” information than yours on why people carry knives. If I’m wrong let me know, of course, but let’s not confuse personal experience with empirical fact.

“They might work, but how do you measure their effectiveness ?”

You wait a year and see what the knife crime statistics are like, unfortunately that’s the only way. But like I’ve said, the point YOU fail to grasp is that with such few numbers of these devices around there is no way that they can be a deterrent since there is no mandatory need for someone to go through them. They can turn back, get back on a train, or take another street. The only place I can even slightly see an argument is at school gates but IIRC the knife crime in american schools hasn’t exactly disappeared where they’ve put knife detectors in.

“I have stopped/searched and arrested several people for carrying knives or other offensive weapons. Guess what…all were white. So why would I want to particularly target non white people ? Unless I’m a racist of course.”

Again, your personal view and perspective is no proof of lack of discrimination in the police force. You can personalise it (and now I understand why you’re so pent up on this thread, cheers), but the reality here is that the police are NOT checking for knives, they are checking for people that *look* like they could stereotypically be carrying knives and having the authority to definitely search them.

Simple fact, these things would only be a deterrent, even in their small limited use, if the police showed that they searched EVERYONE that beeped. Now there is the greater argument of resources for policing, but the only way to put it without a doubt in to politicians and police chief’s mind that such a plan is unworkable (and they are unworkable) is to have the police follow the process to the letter, slow the entire public transport system down through these bottle necks and cause such a fuss that the higher ups can’t help but hear the public uproar.

Stopping knife crime is a complex issue, one that simple one aspect solutions don’t have a chance at solving. You have some figures in communities doing positive work on knife crime and youth violence by giving people things to do, and it’s having a positive impact from what can be told so far.

In the above I meant to say “Would only CERTAINLY HAVE A CHANCE TO be a deterent”

“Yes I can, I can say this. You have interviewed “several” people, you have asked them some questions (which we can’t scrutinise here), you haven’t done an empirical study and you haven’t (from what you’re saying) used an accurate sample size let alone my concerns over whether it’s a random one. Me asking a few mates what they think about global warming is no more “valid” information than yours on why people carry knives. If I’m wrong let me know, of course, but let’s not confuse personal experience with empirical fact.”

Not my mates so your paralle in unfair and inaccurate – I have spoken to the people that actually carry knives and have been arrested for it. What form would an empirical study take ? Most likely asking the same people the same questions would be a part of it. And your personal experience would be…..?

“But like I’ve said, the point YOU fail to grasp is that with such few numbers of these devices around there is no way that they can be a deterrent since there is no mandatory need for someone to go through them”

Ok, I’ll say it in plainer English for you. I am not saying that they are actually a deterrent. I am saying that they are intended to be such. It’s no use spouting on at me that they are useless in that regards because you are preaching to the converted. As I said, they might have a deterrent effect. They might not.

“Again, your personal view and perspective is no proof of lack of discrimination in the police force. You can personalise it (and now I understand why you’re so pent up on this thread, cheers),”

I didn’t offer it as such, and I would suggest that you are more pent up about this issue than I. Why “cheers” by the way ? I haven’t given anything away that I wasn’t happy to divulge, unless you feel my job somehow makes my position weaker.

“but the reality here is that the police are NOT checking for knives, they are checking for people that *look* like they could stereotypically be carrying knives and having the authority to definitely search them.”…..in order to get their knives off them

I don’t mind admitting that you have probably hit the nail on the head..

“Simple fact, these things would only be a deterrent, even in their small limited use, if the police showed that they searched EVERYONE that beeped”

But it wouldn’t be lawful or proportionate

“I didn’t offer it as such, and I would suggest that you are more pent up about this issue than I. Why “cheers” by the way ? I haven’t given anything away that I wasn’t happy to divulge, unless you feel my job somehow makes my position weaker.”

I was simply saying thanks for clarifying your standpoint. I’m not pent up about the issue at all, I just find it ludicrous that anyone can argue for a smokescreen.

What I will say is this, in reference to your last point. Guy that tried to blow himself up (or whatever) in Exeter was a mentally disturbed white man. He would never have been stopped by the police under this attitude that you advocate..in fact you have to ask whether or not there would have been a chance he’d have been found earlier if the police were concentrating on stopping all terrorism and not just that committed by asians.

“Most likely asking the same people the same questions would be a part of it. And your personal experience would be”

I’ve told you, I don’t have any personal experience about working out the causes of carrying knives, no more than I have personal experience about discovering evolution. What I’m asking you to realise is that asking people that are carrying knives *who have been arrested* what they’re carrying them for taints the answer immediately. First the person asking the question (assuming you were on duty) is not independant enough to get an objective answer nor is the situation correct to ensure that a turthful answer is being given. Without independent, anonymous and randomly sampled (i.e not all arrested youths) data you cannot make any valid assertions.

“But it wouldn’t be lawful or proportionate”

Steve, we no doubt agree on the base issue of the matter. Indeed it would not, therefore what is the point in funding an unlawful situation (if utilised properly), or a useless situation (if utilised as is currently)? But then you’ve already agreed that this is political posturing so I’m preaching to the choir ;)

I’m also not pent up about this discussion. I’m trying to answer the questions raised and I would have thought the discussion might be better for it. Once again, I’m not arguing for scanners either.
For what it’s worth all the people I asked told me that they were carrying knives for self protection. They might have been lying of course but if it’s true then I worry why they feel so threatened. they all told me the same thing so I have to consider that it might actually be true.
As for the Exeter case, who knows. Perhaps the chap was recruited by terrorists because they thought the police wouldn’t be looking for a white person.

“Steve, we no doubt agree on the base issue of the matter. Indeed it would not, therefore what is the point in funding an unlawful situation (if utilised properly), or a useless situation (if utilised as is currently)? But then you’ve already agreed that this is political posturing so I’m preaching to the choir ;)”

There is probably no point other than increasing the figures for stop and search. Another example of wasting police resources in order to give the perception of a good service rather than actually delivering a service in the first place.

I think it also ought to be said, carrying knives is not the problem, it’s the people that have the mentality to actually use them in a non-defensive capability.

“hah! I was gonna say that, damn you.”

I may not have the quickest wit, but I am a speedy typist.

Hey Lee,

I just played through Episodes 1 & 2. Absolutely desperate for HL3 now…

Sadly, I may just live it instead. Now, if only I had me a bio-hazard suit and a crow-bar…

Boris touched upon the importance of scanners in an interview today (or is it yesterday now?).

http://www.boriswatch.co.uk/2008/06/14/boris-sets-the-world-to-rights-pt1/
http://www.wktimes.co.uk/Boris_Jonson/part1/default.aspx

Tanks at Heathrow, anyone?

They are showing that they’ve got balls. They’ve had a vasectomy of course – but at least they look like balls.

Steve

>Lee, I probably know better than you why people carry knives, having asked several of them why they do it. I suspect you have just read books about it.
>Not my mates so your parallel in unfair and inaccurate – I have spoken to the people that actually carry knives and have been arrested for it.

That will – assuming they are telling the truth – give you the reasons why the type of people who are arrested for carrying knives do so – not the general population.

>What form would an empirical study take ? Most likely asking the same people the same questions would be a part of it.

Such a sample would have to be a matched sample of the whole population a la Mori.

>And your personal experience would be…..?
>How many pensioners, for example, would you expect to be carrying knives in public, or mothers with children. In my experience, knives brandished in public are rarely actually used anyway, and it is by young males wearing sports clothing and hoodies. And they all say they need it for self defence because loads of other young lads carry knives too apparently.

I think this revolves around what you mean by “knife”. The only legal specifcation I have seen is knives carried for symbolic/religious reasons (kirpans etc) being OK if the blade is S60 could be used but it needs to be authorised in advance by an Inspector and applied within a specified area and timeframe. An authorisation should only be granted if there was information to suggest that disorder involving weapons was going to take place.

My concern is that there are far too many innocent casualties of rapidly increasing powers brought in hand-over-fist in a panic – whether this one, or other stop and search, or SOCPA, or detention without trial, or DNA profiling of the innocent, or ID cards, or any of the other stuff – and the underlying big brother mentality that is indicated. But that is six or seven debates for another day.

Sorry – went wrong somewhere:

>I think this revolves around what you mean by “knife”. The only legal specifcation I have seen is knives carried for symbolic/religious reasons (kirpans etc) being OK if the blade is less than 3″ long.

My father (71) has carried a decent sized folding (blade 3-4″) knife for 50 years – he is an architect and uses it for scraping paint, sharpening pencils and so on.

I have no idea what the legal situation is for such a knife, but I carry one myself on occasions. I’d consider it perfectly reasonable to take one on the Underground – but not to an airport.

It could be construed as an offensive weapon, but so can a Bic biro or a stumpy screwdriver – or I suppose a chip fork.

>S60 could be used but it needs to be authorised in advance by an Inspector and applied within a specified area and timeframe. An authorisation should only be granted if there was information to suggest that disorder involving weapons was going to take place.

My concern is that there are far too many innocent casualties of rapidly increasing powers brought in hand-over-fist in a panic – whether this one, or other stop and search, or SOCPA, or detention without trial, or DNA profiling of the innocent, or ID cards, or any of the other stuff – and the underlying big brother mentality that is indicated. But that is six or seven debates for another day.

I’m also concerned about the innocents whose lives are wrecked by “leaks” to the press.

So these days I approach the police with a good deal of suspicion. Sorry, but there it is.

50. steve6690

“My father (71) has carried a decent sized folding (blade 3-4?) knife for 50 years – he is an architect and uses it for scraping paint, sharpening pencils and so on.”

That would amount to possession for lawful purposes so he’d be ok. It really comes down to the application of common sense. An example : one night we were called to a report of a man in a pub with a large carving knife which he was showing people but not making any direct threats. I got there as he left the pub. He had a carving knife tucked into his belt. The blade was around 8 inches long. He said that he was a chef by trade and the knife was part of the tools of his trade. He still got arrested…obviously.

“I have no idea what the legal situation is for such a knife, but I carry one myself on occasions. I’d consider it perfectly reasonable to take one on the Underground – but not to an airport.”

And I’m sure you could be trusted to carry a knife in public but unfortunately you’d still be committing an offence. I heard a story about a police officer who got arrested for carrying his extendable baton when off duty. He said that he was technically always on duty so might need it if he happened across a “situation”. I don’t know whether he was charged in the end.

steve6690 is me, by the way. This site keeps pre-filling in the wrong name

“My point was we *don’t* know what is causing the rise in knife crime”

That’s not even the point. The point is that there *is* no rise in knife crime. Rather, right-wing liars lie that there is, and gullible people who can’t be bothered to check the facts for themselves believe them.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/may/13/ukcrime.boris

Steve, could you clarify for me.

>And I’m sure you could be trusted to carry a knife in public but unfortunately you’d still be committing an offence.

What would the offence be – carrying a knife “in public” or “on the Underground”?

>“My father (71) has carried a decent sized folding (blade 3-4?) knife for 50 years – he is an architect and uses it for scraping paint, sharpening pencils and so on.”
>That would amount to possession for lawful purposes so he’d be ok.

Yes – but what would happen if he had left it in his pocket when he went to the theatre on the Underground?

Would it then be back to “discretion not to prosecute has been removed so he would have to have the book thrown at him regardless of circumstances (presumably involving DNA tests and the whole big brother state shemozzle)?” (You might infer my opinions on DNA tests and government databases from that!)

See: http://tinyurl.com/476zju (this says “juveniles” and I’m not sure what the situation is for adults.)

If this is the case, then it is the sort of process that in my mind is undermining the police/public relationship If, as indicated above, knife crime is actually going down, then it criminalising for people for basically PR purposes.

Matt W

Having done a certain amount, I think that the decision to change the weighting to “auto prosecute” for having a knife in your pocket is an over

Matt,

I think the changes are a good idea, although I can’t see them having much of a practical effect because the courts are far too lenient. I’m not sure that any more people will be criminalised under the new rules though.
At the moment if you are found “in a public place” with an offensive weapon it does not automatically mean you will be arrested. The officer should exercise discretion as to whether it’s likely an offence has been committed. Were you to be arrested and taken to the police station you will be interviewed and asked why you were carrying the weapon. I’d suggest having a solicitor to advise you would be a wise move. If you admit the offence and have no previous cautions (or warnings if a juvenile) under current rules you would be pretty much guaranteed to receive a caution or warning. This is where the rule changes will take effect. In future, you’ll be released on bail while the police consult CPS for a decision on whether to charge and send the case to court. CPS will still weigh up the evidence and decide whether there is a realistic chance of gaining a conviction, and also whether it’s in the public interest to prosecute. In the example you gave about your father on the underground I’d expect that it’s at this point that common sense would prevail and CPS would advise “No further action”.
Of course if the offence is denied in interview it would go to cps anyway, as it does now.
Here is a link which might clarify things a bit :

http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/section12/chapter_c.html

I’m sure there is an element of PR in the rule changes. Gordon Brown needs all the points he can get. Appearing to be tough on knife crime won’t do him any harm..

hope this helps

Steve

Steve

Thanks for taking the time to reply – much appreciated.

Matt

56. Matt Munro

If I can just interrupt this argument………….

What is the problem with the police stopping/searching people they “don’t like the look of” ? The Police will have seen far more knife carrying than the average person (or the average civil servant at the home office) and are far more likely to know who is/is not likely to be carrying a knife with the intention of using it.
The alternative as Steve says is not to search “everyone or no one” but to have the usual nu lab solution of targets, directives, quotas and guidelines on who should and should not be searched, how much leniency should be shown for certain groups over others, and the whole exercise would just descend into a centralised, bureacratic nightmare (sound familiar ?).
It is not the job of the police to understand, or give a toss about the “underlying causes” of knife carrying, it is to protect the general public from people who chose to break the law, and therefore represent a threat to everyone elses liberty (i.e my liberty to act lawfully without threat of being stabbed).
In my view the problem is quite simple, knife crime is rising because there is no effective deterrent for carrying a knife. Even though the govt have recently increased the max sentence for carrying an offensive weapon (to 4 years in prison) the courts rarely hand out this sentence, I suspect becsue many offenders are “children” or to protect themsleves from liberal accusations about structural biases in the legal system.

Matt:

For me it’s simple, if you deploy metal detectors then you search everyone it buzzes, otherwise just don’t bother with the detectors. The detectors just legitimise stereotypical typecasting and prejudiced scrutiny while clearly not actually ensuring the police “crack down” on knife crime.

To say young men with hoodies are more likely to carry a knife than an eighty year old granny isn’t stereotyping.

the people who complain about these kind of measures are usually those safely insulated from the world of knife crime – middle class liberals of a certain sort. Working class people living on council estates don’t have a problem with it.

Does that say something about how reasonable the measures are, gutner, or how accustomed the working class on council estates are to being disproportionately scrutinised?

“the police do not use the gates to detect anyone other than people they would already have potentially pulled over due to their own prejudices and discrimination”

Quite right. These nasty policemen have got such horrid prejudices. Amazingly, they think that attitudinal young black guys wearing street clothes and walking like loping hyenas are MORE likely to be carying a knife down his pants than a granny in her Sunday best. They also assume that chavvy white girls with Croydon facelifts accompanying their pasty-faced hoodie boyfriends are MORE likely to have knives in their handbags than a white middle aged City worker in a suit is to have a shank tucked away in his briefcase.

Face it, muppets. We all know which sections of society do the killings. To fail to target them would be a gross dereliction of duty. For the police, having to listen to whining, pampered, middle class lefties accusing them of bigotry is just one more occupational hazard.

Thank god the police have such shining examples as you in the force to protect us all.

“Face it, muppets. We all know which sections of society do the killings. To fail to target them would be a gross dereliction of duty. For the police, having to listen to whining, pampered, middle class lefties accusing them of bigotry is just one more occupational hazard.”

How about you just do your job and pull over everyone that the machine beeps, unless you would rather risk peoples safety because of your laziness?

Remember that we don’t have the manpower to search everyone who sets off the metal detector. So what should I do, Sherlock? The machine tells me granny has metal on her, but common sense tells me the opportunity cost of pulling her over to find the big bunch of keys in her handbag (while having to allow the dodgy looking chav through unhindered) makes that a stupid call.

Seems to me that people like Lee Griffin are fundamentally less interested in stopping the blade merchants than in forcing the police to conform to a senseless ‘non-discrimination’ agenda. Of course, in the real world -as opposed to a consequence-free fantasy land – he wouldn’t hesitate to discriminate himself: if a bunch of young men – fitting all the stereotypes I outlined in my previous post – got on the same train as you at midnight, Lee would be worried. If a group of middle aged women got on, he wouldn’t be.

Why is that?

So institutional racism has been eradicated at last, huh? Strewth.

It reminds me of the knee-jerk response to 7/7. On Merseyside, police were stationed

outside ‘major’ underground stations to ‘reassure the public’ as I was told. This sham

continued for days. Strangely, nobody stopped me with my rucksack or copy of the

Terrorist Handbook, I mean Guardian.

Like bobbies on the beat, it is just window dressing based on perception of crime

rather than fact, and designed to keep the unthinking happy. ‘Cos no terrorist would

ever get on at another unmanned stop.

Now, individual police may agree that this was a waste of time (nice work though) but

as the PC Plod comments above allude to – I don’t know whether they are police or not

- this attitude seems to prevail.

And if you’ve seen some of the middle-aged women getting on trains late at night, you

may be equally disturbed.

Prejudice is a self-fulfilling prophecy, not any guarantee of providing a solution: demonise a group and they will become your demons – feeling you are in the right does not prevent the fight from which nobody emerges unscathed.


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