Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight: Imprisonment for possessing a bladed article in a public place is a disproportionate and ineffective sentencing strategy

    Research output: Other contribution


    Over the past 60 years, Parliament has become ever more concerned with the use of knives in criminal offences and, as a result, has introduced a range of increasingly authoritative legislative measures to regulate the possession of blades and to punish those who violate the provisions. When first enacted, the maximum penalty for possession of a bladed article was merely a fine. Following a number of staged increases, the offence is now punishable with up to four years imprisonment. Sentencing guidelines provide that the starting point for an offender carrying a knife in a public place, in circumstances where it is not used to threaten or cause fear and where it was not likely to be so used, is 12 weeks imprisonment. This distinctly utilitarian threat of imprisonment projects a clear message that carrying knives is abhorrent but given the reasons why offenders carry such items, it is questionable whether it is in fact a disincentive. This soapbox speech postulates that a prison sentence is a disproportionate response to the carrying of a knife in a public place and will never be an effective deterrent.
    Original languageEnglish
    TypeConference paper
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - Oct 2014



    • Knife
    • deterrence
    • sentencing

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