Serious Violence Reduction Orders (‘SVRO’) are a new police stop and search power being piloted by forces in England and Wales. The orders were created by the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
SVROs can be given to people who are convicted of an offence, if the court believes that the individual used or was in possession of a knife or bladed article when the offence was committed.
An individual can also be given an SVRO if someone they were with during the committing of an offence used or was in possession of a knife or bladed article, and they ‘knew’ or ‘ought to have known’ that the other person was in possession of a knife or bladed article.
When an SVRO is applied, the same individual can be subject to stop and search by any serving police officer under the SVRO power. Unlike most other stop-and-search powers, under an SVRO police officers have no legal requirement to have an evidence-based reason (i.e. ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’) to stop and search an individual. Officers can stop and search an individual labelled with an SVRO at any time and in any location, simply by virtue of the SVRO being in place.
Failure to comply with an SVRO condition without a reasonable excuse, or obstructing a police officer in the exercise of a SVRO-based stop and search, can lead to a prison sentence of up to two years.
From their inception, SVRO powers have generated a great deal of controversy. Successive home secretaries have defended the power as way to deter violence and ‘break the cycle of offending’, but various human rights groups, academics and politicians have raised objections to the power, citing a wide array of concerns about civil liberties, racial disproportionality, joint enterprise policing and collective punishment, practical ineffectiveness, and a lack of transparency about the rolling out of the powers.
Do they work?
The Runnymede Trust has reviewed the use of these new powers and concludes:
- No statistically significant link between existing police stop and search powers and violence prevention or reduction. Section 60 (of the Public Order Act 1994) search powers prove particularly ineffective, with an overall arrest rate of 0.5% for offensive weapons between 2001 and 2021.
- No studies demonstrating a relationship between court or civil orders and a reduction in rates of ‘offending’ behaviour.
- To the contrary, the evidence points to a relationship between the use of court or civil orders and increasing levels of involvement with the criminal justice system.
- A clear and significant link between similar police interventions and police stops, and negative mental and physical health outcomes such as higher rates of anxiety, self-harm, suicide attempts, diabetes and high blood pressure. These negative health impacts are disproportionately felt by Black communities.
- A clear and significant link between high-discretion stop and search powers and deepening racial disparities in the use of police powers. The study identified no police stop and search power that does not lead to highly racially disparate outcomes. For example, under Section 60, Black people are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched.
As a result, the Runnymede Trust is urging policymakers to:
- Immediately scrap the Serious Violence Reduction Orders pilot and repeal the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022;
- Repeal legislation on high-discretion policing powers, such as Section 60 of the Public Order Act 1994;
- Scrap the use of other pre-crime intervention civil orders such as Knife Crime Prevention Orders and Behavioural Prevention Orders;
- Fund grassroots community-led and community-trusted organisations that play a role in conflict mediation, violence interruption and prevention; and
- Fund community-led mental health support and legal advocacy for individuals harmed by police stop based interventions.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice on a matter of criminal law, then get in touch with our Crime Team on 020 7935 3522 or firstname.lastname@example.org or in an emergency please call our 24/7 number 07973 259382 and let us help. We can advise on a plea, defences and potential sentences in a wide range of circumstances.
Whatever your personal circumstances the above is only a guide and we would advise you to contact us to obtain definitive advice as you will appreciate that each person’s circumstances are unique to them.
Image credit: “Hunting Knife” by cooling84 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.