The Sentencing Council has proposed that young knife criminals should face tougher punishments if they film their offences to post them on social media. The draft states that youngsters in England and Wales, who carry knives or blades in public – when in a group – could face longer jail sentences.
The proposal noted that young people film their offence to "deliberately humiliate" victims and listed a number of probable "aggravating factors" for judges and magistrates to consider when deciding a punishment. These include, "deliberate humiliation of victims, including but not limited to filming of the offence, deliberately committing the offence before a group of peers with the intent of causing additional distress or circulating details/photos/videos etc of the offence on social media or within peer group", the Press Association reported.
These factors also include attempts to hide their identity and targeting victims working in the public sector or someone, who they find vulnerable.
Speaking about the proposal, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: "Knife crime ruins lives. Our crackdown is working - under this Government more people are being sent to jail for carrying a knife, and for longer. I want those who carry knives to feel the full force of the law. These new guidelines will help ensure sentences reflect the devastation caused to families and communities."
While the new proposals are aimed at bringing about changes to knife crime laws, they do not cover offences where another weapon is used to injure a victim. It also does not include the use or possession of guns.
The Sentencing Council stressed that it was aware of the use of social media to intentionally embarrass victims of knife crimes and that it has increasingly become common practice among young offenders. The council is seeking tougher sentences to help address public concerns as knife crimes are on the rise.
Nearly 29,000 knife-related crimes were recorded in the 12 months up to March 2016, while 7,800 adults and 1,400 young offenders were sentenced for the crime in 2015. The possession of knives and blades also increased from almost 10,000 to 11,500 during the period, BBC reported.
Meanwhile, Council Member and District Judge Richard Williams said: "Too many people are carrying knives and it only takes a moment of anger or drunkenness for one to be pulled out with fatal results or serious injury. Through these guidelines, we want to provide courts with comprehensive, up-to-date guidance to ensure that sentences reflect the seriousness of offending."
Last year, the government introduced a new compulsory "two strikes" jail sentence for adults caught with a knife more than once, who would face a minimum six-month jail term. However, figures have revealed that nearly half of the repeat offenders escaped jail sentences arguing that there were exceptional circumstances to their case.