Court orders aimed at stopping people as young as 12 from carrying knives and being involved in serious violence are being tested in London.
Police are now able to apply to the courts for a knife crime prevention order (KCPO) to be imposed on a youngster they believe is carrying blades, regularly has knives or has knife-related convictions.
It comes after two teenage boys died in separate stabbings on Monday, leading to concerns that the grim tally of violent teenage deaths in London for the whole year will exceed the previous high of 27 in 2017.
This would mean the highest teenage death toll since 2012. So far in the capital in 2021, a total of 21 teenagers have been killed in just over six months.
Two boys aged 15 and 16 were killed in separate knife attacks on Monday.
The younger boy died when violence broke out near Woolwich Arsenal station in south-east London just after 5.20pm, while the 16-year-old was found injured in Oval Place in Lambeth shortly before midnight.
The trial is being run by the Metropolitan Police ahead of plans to roll it out across forces in England and Wales.
The youngsters could find themselves facing conditions such as curfews and restrictions on their use of social media under the orders.
They could be banned from travelling to certain geographical areas as well as being stopped from carrying a knife.
The KCPOs can be in place for a maximum of two years and must be reviewed by the courts after 12 months, with orders issued to under-18s to be reviewed more regularly.
The courts can also call for a range of activities to take place such as educational courses, sports club referrals, relationship counselling, anger management, mentoring and drug rehabilitation under the orders.
Breaching the order will be a criminal offence punishable by a maximum prison sentence of two years if convicted.
The Home Office said they are aimed at stopping a small but high-risk cohort of individuals from causing immediate harm to others and support earlier interventions to turn young people away from a life of crime and protect them from potential exploitation from criminal gangs.
Ms Patel added: “One of the hardest parts of my job as Home Secretary is seeing families ripped apart by the horror of knife crime and I am determined to stop this misery, protect communities and help save lives.”
She said: “Police have asked for these orders to help them keep our streets and young people safe, and I will always do everything in my power to ensure they have the tools and powers to cut crime and protect the public.”
The results of the London pilot, which began on July 5, will be reviewed after 14 months before a decision is made on whether to introduce the scheme in other forces in England and Wales.
The orders are designed to work alongside current police powers to tackle knife crime, which include the existing offence of possessing a bladed article in public without good reason and stop and search.
Metropolitan Police Commander Ade Adelekan believes the orders will be a “valuable tactic” and provide more options for officers who are tackling violence in London.
He said: “They will allow intervention at an early stage and divert vulnerable people at risk of becoming serious criminals by supporting them to make better lifestyle changes away from violence.
“Also, they will enable police to monitor the individual and enforce the law on them if they breach it.
“Both outcomes helping to keep our communities safe.”
Pastor Lorraine Jones, 48, whose son Dwayne Simpson was stabbed to death at the age of 20 as he tried to save a friend’s life in Brixton, south London, in 2014, said: “These orders are just what we need and are vitally important for us in the community as we have a number of young people who carry knives for various reasons in fear.
“They will give us greater opportunity to work with young people and potentially divert them from prison, as they too are vulnerable at a tender age and at risk of being killed or using that knife to take a life.”