Two women have been convicted of knife crime offences, and as a result are the first offenders in the country to be issued with Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs).
Sarah Dowson, aged 35, of Birkenhead, appeared at Sefton Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 7 June where she pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon in a public place. She was sentenced to 26 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, 25 days of Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and issued an SVRO with a duration of two years.
Vivian Holland, aged 50, of no fixed address, appeared at Sefton Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 7 June where she pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing a knife blade in a public place. She was sentenced to 17 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, 30 days of Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and issued an SVRO with a duration of 18 months.
Merseyside Police, working in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), secured the two SVROs on Wednesday, 7 June.
The force is the first of four pilot forces to secure an SVRO. Courts can grant an SVRO when an adult aged 18 or over is convicted of an offence involving a bladed article or offensive weapon.
The change in legislation means officers now have the automatic right to search individuals for bladed articles, or offensive weapons in a public place.
This targeted use of stop and search aims to tackle high-risk offenders, known weapons carriers and help drive down reoffending to keep communities safe.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said, “The Government is always seeking to find new ways to stop violent offenders from carrying knives.
“Earlier this week I met with Chief Constable Serena Kennedy and congratulate Merseyside Police for their continued work to tackle serious criminality and keep our streets safe.”
“It’s fantastic that they have secured the first two Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) in the country, meaning through a court order, officers can search these individuals anytime for weapons in public places. We are piloting SVROs in four forces in England and Wales, and look forward to seeing the police securing more of these in future.”
Superintendent Phil Mullally, Merseyside’s Lead for Serious Violence and Knife Crime said, “We are pleased we have secured two Serious Violence Reduction Orders against offenders who pose a significant risk to the public.
“We can now proactively deter these individuals from carrying knives through targeted search powers aimed to disrupt and distance them from criminal behaviour.
“We sadly know the devastating consequences of knife crime, not only on victims and their families but also in our wider communities. Ultimately, we will use any tool available to us to keep our communities safe from serious violence and knife crime.
“We are confident that these new powers will help deter offenders, help change behaviour and provide reassurance to communities that action is being taken. We are taking full advantage of this new tool to target those who carry and use knives on the streets of Merseyside.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said, “Merseyside Police is relentless in its work to prevent and tackle serious violence. Securing the first two Serious Violence Prevention Orders in England and Wales is yet another example of their commitment to doing everything possible to protect our communities.
“There is never a justifiable reason for a person to routinely carry a knife in public and these new powers are focused on increasing the safety of people across Merseyside by reducing the potential risk posed by these offenders.
“Preventing harm to families and the heartbreak of losing a loved one to knife crime remains a top priority and it’s vital we continue to do all we can to deter and rehabilitate repeat offenders, as well as educating all young people on the tragic consequences of carrying a blade.”
Since 2019, Merseyside Police has seized more than 10,000 weapons and made more than 3,000 arrests for serious violence offences. In the last 12 months, Merseyside Police and partners have reduced knife crime by 20%.
The government introduced SVROs in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and launched the pilot on Wednesday 19 April 2023. They aim to help save lives and reduce serious violence by seeking to change the behaviour of known knife and weapon carriers.
Whilst SVROs may only be applied for in pilot force areas – Merseyside, Thames Valley, Sussex and West Midlands – officers across England and Wales have the power to stop and search those with a live SVRO.
If you have information about someone carrying a knife, or know someone involved in crime, get in touch with Merseyside Police on social media @MerPolCC, call 101 or contact @CrimestoppersUK anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Image: Merseyside Police. (L-R) Vivian Holland and Sarah Dowson