Knife Crime: Know the facts

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Knife crime ruins lives and devastates communities, yet it can be prevented. It is important for parents, guardians and those who work with young people to understand the facts about knife crime, the law surrounding it and strategies for addressing this issue.

This resource aims to provide an overview of this topic and support young people in making safer choices.

What the law says

The law is clear:

  • It is illegal to carry an offensive weapon like a knife in a public place without a ‘good reason’, even if you don’t intend to use it.
  • The maximum penalty for carrying a knife illegally is either four years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
  • A good reason for carrying a knife can include if it is a trade tool, for religious reasons, or a pen knife less than three inches long.
  • However, possessing a legal knife becomes illegal if it is used to cause injury or harm.
  • Police can stop and search anyone they believe is carrying a weapon.

You don’t have to just stab someone to have broken the law. Under ‘Joint Enterprise’ you could end up in prison for assisting or encouraging someone to commit a knife crime.

Facts about young people and knife crime

Signs a young person may be carrying a knife

Recognising signs that a young person may be carrying a knife is essential for early intervention. Some common signs include:

  • Changes in behaviour: Sudden or significant changes in behaviour, such as becoming withdrawn, aggressive, or secretive.
  • Changes in friendships and associations: If a young person starts associating with new friends and groups you haven’t heard of or met before.
  • Academic performance: A sudden drop in academic performance or engagement in school can also be an indicator.

However, it’s important not to jump to any conclusions even if you spot these signs. This pack includes a guide to speaking to a young person about knife crime that can help you broach the subject if you’re concerned.

The power of conversation

Relationships are critical in a young person’s decision to carry a knife. Talking with young people, especially those you care about, can make a big difference. Open and honest communication can:

  • Build trust: It helps build trust between you and a young person, making them more likely to confide in you.
  • Provide guidance: Conversations allow you to provide guidance, share information, and help a young person make informed choices.
  • Offer support: You can offer emotional support and reassurance that you’re there for them, even when they make mistakes.
  • Provide alternatives: Rather than scaring a young person about the dangers of knives, you are in an excellent position to suggest positive options and raise their self-esteem.

Remember that these conversations should be non-judgmental and focused on understanding the young person’s perspectives and concerns. Later in this resource, there is a more detailed guide to having conversations with young people about carrying a knife.

Support and guidance

Here are some helpful resources for you and young people.

  • Ben Kinsella TrustIts website offers free resources and guidance for parents, carers, youth workers and young people.
  • Family Lives – Offers guidance and support on all aspects of parenting 24/7. Call free on 0808 800 2222 or visit the Family Lives website.
  • NSPCC – Offers support and a free hotline for parents and guardians concerned about young people involved in criminal activity. Freephone: 0808 800 5000. Email help@ or visit the NSPCC website.
  • Meic – A free, confidential, anonymous helpline for children and young people. Call free on 080880 23456 any day from 08:00-midnight. Chat online 1-2-1 with a member of the team 08:00-midnight. Text 84001 anytime – this is free and won’t show up on your phone bill. Visit the Meic website to get support.
  • Childline – A free, private, and confidential service where you can talk about anything. Call 0800 1111 or visit the Childline website to get support.
  • is a site where you can access non-judgemental information and advice about crime and criminality. What makes this site different is it also provides you with a safe place to give information to us about crime 100% anonymously.
  • Wales Without Violence Framework – Through the development of the Wales Without Violence Framework, children, young people and professionals have dared to imagine a society in which we all live free from violence. The Framework includes nine strategies that would be useful if you’re considering what activities could best support children and young people.
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