Gangs and violence

Gangs, group violence and the law

Violence has a serious impact on victims and should not be tolerated in school, at home or in public places. Violence is against the law and is a police matter.

Research shows members of a gang (with a name and a territory) are far more likely:

  • to be victims of crime than non gang members
  • to carry a weapon, like a knife or a gun
  • commit a serious offence
  • break the law repeatedly
  • have complaints made about them for rude or noisy behaviour
  • use illegal drugs
  • get involved in alcohol-related incidents

All of the points to the left are likely to be connected to violence in some way:

  • Violence against a person is a criminal offence.
  • The police will take acts of violence very seriously.
  • If you have witnessed violence or have been a victim yourself, report it to the police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency.
  • If you feel unable to talk to the police you can call the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111 (you don't have to give your name and your call will not be traced).

When is it a matter for the police?

It is not illegal to belong to a gang, but if you commit a crime or an act of violence you might be:

  • arrested
  • sent to prison

If you carry a weapon like a knife or a gun, even if you never use it or if you think it is only for your own protection, you are breaking the law and can be arrested.

You may not know that the law also goes further than this with something called “joint enterprise”. You can be found guilty of murder if for example:

  • you are part of a group and someone in that group commits murder with a weapon or by some other means (this also includes attacks where the victim is punched, kicked etc.)
  • if you had a realisation that the person was going to use violence or you knew that they were carrying a weapon and even though you didn't agree to the attack or use of the weapon but remained as part of that group

To avoid liability under joint enterprise you would need to tell all the other members of the group that you were no longer part of the group or stop the attack by physical intervention or calling the police. However it is very difficult to prove that you had communicated your withdrawal and the only effective means of avoiding liability would to not be part of the group in the first place.

Also committing any crime as part of a group or gang may lead to a longer prison sentence when a case goes to court

  • Police can and will search someone if they believe they are carrying a weapon
  • Police and school staff can search young people for weapons at school

If you have a criminal record you might not:

  • be accepted into a college or university
  • get a job
  • be allowed to travel to some countries, like the United States of America.