I want my voice to be heard… KP – 20 years old

In October 2021, I was convicted of ‘possession of knife/blade/sharp pointed article’, ‘Grievous Bodily Harm with intent (GBHSECTION18)’ and ‘Threat a person with a blade/sharply pointed article in a public place’.

There had been a staggering 90% increase in knife crime between 2012/13 and 2019/20 in England and Wales, and not enough is being done to address it. 2016 was the year the government first attempted to crack down on knife crime by giving prison sentences to people/youth who were found with Knives or sharp/Pointed articles and also by banning shops from selling Them. A new term (Cyclone Knives) was added to the Ban list as authorities later learned that shops had still found a way to sell them but with a different, non-violent name’.

On Thursday, January 25 2024, a new legislation was agreed upon by the government which dictates that ‘all zombie knives (even without threatening names) will be banned’ and ‘the maximum sentence for possession of banned weapons also increased from 6 months-2 years’, ‘The Police now also have the power to seize and destroy knives found in homes, if there are reasonable grounds to suspect they will be used for serious crime. I firmly believe that only banning knives, whether Small, Medium, or Large, or increasing prison sentences won’t change much. The proposed legislation will take effect in September. It is almost an invitation to sell as many knives as possible before that and likely will move the market underground.

Over the last few weeks, two young lives were lost in my area due to knife crime. We all expect that the severity of the situation deserves immediate proactive action to address root causes rather than the symptoms alone.

From the perspective of someone who served a sentence due to knife crime offences, I reformed and rehabilitated myself because some good people believed in me and allowed me to become what I could truly be. Now, I’m trying to follow my passion to be a voice for those people who have been victims of knife crime and for those who have also been victims of the government’s failure to provide better schemes for young people like myself who lost their path and might not even be here if not those few people standing by my side. But, the support such organisations, primarily charities, offer is limited. Therefore, it has to be the responsibility of those in power to do more and better.

In the interview, actor Idris Elba called the new legislation a ‘step towards the right direction’ but believes we must take urgent actions and responses to prevent re-offending. As a former prisoner, there are not many opportunities in prisons for young people like me to find their ways. The lack of positive development can easily break someone’s spirit as it’s easy to fall back into the old lifestyle, even if you’re actively looking to go on the right path. The government should bring out more effective schemes such as providing courses in prison with a guaranteed interview/job at the end; even a guaranteed interview would be substantial in my experience; once employers see the disclosure letter, they stop considering you as a possible applicant due to your criminal record. Hence, we should not rely solely on the things we can’t control (such as banning knives) and do more of the necessary things to make a difference (giving opportunities).

Most of the young people that I’ve met in prison, who were also serving sentences because of knife crime or violent offences, have experienced some form of childhood trauma, just like me. I believe supporting young people in prisons is as essential as supporting them early.

With or without ‘zombie knives’, there will still be violent incidents from young to old people, whether it may be gangs, drugs or crimes of passion. It will be impossible to eradicate it completely. But it is unacceptable not to do everything that should be done to address it. It is unacceptable not to acknowledge and address all underlying reasons that lead to criminality amongst young people. We are seen as a part of the problem but never as a part of the solution. Perhaps it is time to change this.

“It is our fears that force us to make others fear us before they get the chance to do the same.”