Friday, 19 June 2015

Weapons in Prison - A New Offence

From the 1st June 2015 the implementation of section 78 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 inserted into the Prison Act 1952 a new offence where a prisoner is in possession of an offensive weapon / knife / blade etc within prison.

Previously it was not a criminal offence to be in possession of such an item within custody and this was normally dealt with via the adjudication procedure, sometimes resulting in the addition of up to 42 added days.

However, in attempt to crack down on serious acts of violence within the prison setting against staff and inmates the Government have introduced this provision which now creates an offence which carries a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment.

The possession of bladed articles for legitimate purposes within custody such as in the kitchens or in workshops will be excluded.

Prisoners who have a history of violence in custody, or there is evidence to suggest that the behaviour will continue or that the behaviour is part of organised crime that suggests links to the community e.g. gang related, are likely to be circumstances in which possession of such an item in custody is likely to lead to referral to the Police and a criminal prosecution.

Carl Miles, the Head of our Prison Law Department, says “prisoners who find themselves charged with an offence of possession of an unauthorised item namely a weapon of some description should ensure they seek legal advice as a matter of urgency. If their case is referred to the Police an interview will need to take place in which they are entitled to free and independent legal representation. If the matter is then dealt with at court they are obviously facing the possibility of a lengthy custodial sentence. Therefore seeking legal advice at the earliest opportunity is the best advice that we can give”.