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Teachers: Citizenship:

Last Updated: Friday June 20 2008 15:25 GMT

Knife crime and sentencing

Citizenship KS2/KS3/Levels E&F
Crime and justice

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Newsround on Knives is a special Newsround programme looking at knife crime - from a child's point of view.

Using animation, it shows real kids who've been affected by knife crime explaining their experiences in their own words.

High profile stabbings often produce calls for tougher laws, and fixed penalties for carrying knives.

Students take on the role of a sentencing judge, and consider some differing scenarios.

Learning aims

  • What a fixed penalty is
  • Dangers of kids carrying knives
  • Strengths and weaknesses of fixed penalties in practice


    Read out the Press Pack report below:

    Ask students:

  • Are you worried about kids carrying knives?
    If so what worries you?

  • Should people who carry knives be punished as strongly as people who carry guns?
    If so, why?

    Warm up

    Working in pairs, students decide what punishments they would hand down for the following offences:

    • Carrying a knife in school
    • Dropping chewing gum on school carpets
    • Stealing from other people's blazers in the school changing rooms
    • Bullying younger kids
    • Nicking someone's brand new bike from the bike sheds
    • Shoplifting sweets on the way home
    • Carrying a loaded gun on the streets

    Bring the group together, feedback from the pairs, and see if you can all agree on a final set of punishments.

    Ask students: Why is it hard to agree on fixed punishments?

    Main activity

    Read through the following scenarios. Would the penalties the group agreed on be fair in these cases? For each example get students to pick a penalty and write a quick justification of their opinion.

    Carrying a knife
    A girl with a history of causing problems. She's already been to court once following a knife fight where someone ended up with nasty scars on their face. The police couldn't prove she had caused the scars. She also recently threatened an ex-boyfriend with violence. Is your punishment OK in this case?

    Chewing gum
    A boy who has never been in trouble before dropped his gum on the carpet because a teacher thumped him on the back as a joke - the teacher wasn't being unfriendly - and he didn't know the kid was chewing gum. What should the punishment be in this case?

    Carrying a loaded gun
    A boy who has been in trouble a bit, he's no angel but he's never hurt anyone. He does hang out with some minor roughnecks. One of them, who has a reputation for violence, pressured him to deliver a gun to an address across town. He didn't take the bullets out as he'd never seen a gun before and didn't know how to unload it. On the way across town the police stop him. Is the punishment you agreed on OK for this case?

    Extension activity

    Come up with other examples where mitigating or incriminating circumstances might challenge a fixed penalty.


    How can these problems be overcome? Prompt: By using minimum not fixed sentences, by giving the judge full discretion.

    Teachers' Background

    Magistrate's court - deals with summary offences.

    Scales of justice graphic

  • This court is where all criminal cases start out. If the offence is less serious then the magistrates will come to a verdict themselves. If it is a more serious case then they will send it on to a Crown Court - if they believe there is enough evidence to hold a trial.
  • There is no jury at a magistrate's court.
  • Magistrates or justices of the peace (JPs) are members of the local community.

    Crown court - deals with indictable offences.

  • A judge is in charge of the trial but the jury reach the verdict. If the jury find that the accused is guilty then the judge will decide upon a sentence and in doing so will consider prior convictions. These will not be revealed to the jury.
  • Jury: 12 men and women aged between 18 and 70. The jury are selected at random from the electoral register.

    If the accused is under 18 they will probably be sent to a youth court. This differs from an adult court in the following ways:

  • There is a panel of three magistrates who have been trained to deal with cases involving young people.
  • The magistrates will include at least one woman and at least one man.
  • The public will not be allowed into the court.
  • If the accused is under 16 their parents must attend the court.
  • The name and identity of the accused may not be reported in the press.

    Those under 18 may appear in an adult court if:

  • They have been charged along with an adult, in which case they will go to a magistrate's court.
  • The crime they are accused of is so serious that the trial will be heard in a crown court.

    For hundreds more news-based lessons, Click on Teachers on the left hand side of this page.