Knife and gun violence is on the rise in the UK. This is important to know and understand from a self defence perspective.

In the US we know firearms laws are, shall we say, lax which results in a significant rate of firearms being used to commit violent crime. What is interesting is seeing how different weapons laws in different countries result in slightly different types of violent crime become more common.


For example, in the UK (and also Australia), we see strict firearms laws result in the limited availability of firearms and their subsequent use in violent crime. However, we see these places with few firearms have a higher rate of knife and other edged weapons being used in attacks.

In the UK there is a significant knife sub-culture as seen in the opening BBC documentary. A knife sub-culture and the widespread carriage and use of knives increases the risk of a violent encounter featuring a knife - important to know from a self defence perspective.

So understanding knives and how they are used to commit violent crime is more important from a self defence perspective than in some other places.

A quick teasor of what's to come - while firearms use is MUCH lower in the UK than the US it is on the increase. So understanding how guns are being used to commit violent crime becomes important as well.

Let's dive into our analysis of knife and gun violence in the UK today. I am not from the UK but always find this sort of research and analysis interesting from the perspective of learning and developing my understanding of general human violence.

Last year a knife or blade was used in a crime every 16 minutes, somewhere in the UK. There were 2,300 victims of knife crime aged 18 or younger last year, records show - a rise of 45% over three years, in England and Wales. The Home Office says knife crime remains below levels in 2010 but it recognises there is more to be done.
— BBC’s Ed Thomas

Important: The primary source material drawn on for the statistical data for this article is the Office for National Statistics.

In the UK, 2016 saw double digit percentage increases in knife crime, firearms offences, robberies and homicides compared to 2015. Recently published violent crime data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) gives us the most current insights into violent crime in the UK.


Does the above chart demonstrate a bottoming out of the dropping trend? Is a reversal in progress?

Keeping track of violent crime rates and types allows someone interested in self defence to develop an understanding and awareness of what sort of attacks to expect. This can not only help in limiting the chances of being caught by surprise but also allows for appropriate and relevant physical self defence training to take place.

Let’s look at the main figures relating to serious violent crime. Here are some key data points comparing 2016 with 2015.

  • Knife crime up 14%
  • Firearms offences up 13%
  • Robberies up 10%
  • Homicides up 21%

The ONS said there had been a "near-continual decline" in police recorded crime between 2004 and 2014, but since the year ending March 2014, total police recorded crime had increased.


The above chart uses data drawn from the ONS (as highlighted at the opening of this article). It shows the numbers of various violent crime categories where knives or other sharp impliments were used.

Offences that involved a knife or sharp instrument also showed an increase (14% to 32,448 offences) during the latest year. .. The past 2 years have seen a rise in the number of offences involving a knife or sharp instrument recorded… The latest figures show the volume of offences returning to levels similar to those seen 6 years ago (year ending March 2011), the earliest point for which comparable data are available.

So this recent data indicates there is a gradual longer term change in violent crime rates. There is no need to be alarmist about this as these figures are still much better than the 2004 period. However, this change in direction is worth monitoring further.


The above video further explores the use of knives in the UK. As we can see, there is quite the knife culture amongst some groups in the UK.

But what about some recent case studies to show how some of these knife attacks played out? I'm glad you asked. It is indeed useful to look at individual incidents in order to develop a more complete picture of how knife attacks are occurring. It is just prudent to not just analyse the bulk knife attack rates and numbers but to look at some individual attacks.

The value in looking at individual knife attacks is to see how the incidents occurred. How did the situations develop? What time were the attacks? Where did they occur? At home? At work? Socialising?

Here are a few brief examples.



The Guardian:

A 20-year-old man who stabbed his younger half-brother to death during an argument over how the teenager was speaking to their mother. Jazzie Watson knifed 17-year-old student Shamus McNama 10 times in the face, leg, chest and back at the family home in Bristol.

Adam Vaitilingam QC, prosecuting, described how the pair argued in an upstairs bedroom of the family home in Lockleaze, Bristol, in the early hours of 28 February. They exchanged punches and held each other in headlocks before they were pulled apart by their mother and a friend. The fight resumed downstairs and Shamus was fatally stabbed with a small potato knife.

Quick recap of key points: The incident occurred in the family home between young people who knew each other in the early hours of the morning. The incident began escalating with an argument.

I have stated the facts again and again but it bears repeating here. Most violent attacks are from people you know. You needn’t be overly paranoid about mysterious strangers and never consider people you know. That is a flawed perspective. Be more concerned about those you know - or at least AS concerned.

This case is valuable in that it shows just how pointless some situations are that can rapidly lead to violence. It also shows the significant CONSEQUENCES for getting into physical altercations.

One minute a situation could be an exchange of words and maybe even simple wrestling or exchanging holds etc. The next, someone is dead on the floor. There are no winners in such situations.

The following represents this well:

Jailing Watson, Judge Neil Ford QC, the recorder of Bristol, said: “It is plain that what you did was to act in an extremely violent way with a knife in an explosion of temper.

“In the circumstances where life is lost the impact is always enormous. You have taken the life of your half-brother, who you loved. You have deprived your mother of a son and your siblings of a brother. You have also added to your own mother’s grief by ruining your own life. The anguish which you have caused is immeasurable.”




Armed police were called late on Wednesday evening after a 19-year-old Norwegian man of Somali origin began attacking people in London's Russell Square, a park near the site of a 2005 suicide bombing. Police said there was no evidence the attack was terrorism related.

A U.S. woman was killed and five other people injured by a man with suspected mental health issues who went on a rampage with a knife in central London.

This sort of attack seems to be trending at the moment. I will leave comments there for now and may do a detailed post looking specifically at this sort of mass stabbing attack in the future if there is interest.

This sort of attack is just worth noting for now.



The Guardian :

A 22-year-old man has been killed and three others injured in a multiple stabbing on Halloween night in south London. The man died in Gloucester Road, Croydon, just after 8pm.

Two of the injured men, aged 21 and 27, were taken to hospital in a serious condition. A third man, aged 22, took himself to hospital with stab wounds.

The incident happened when the capital’s streets would have been busy with Halloween revellers.

Quick recap of key points: The attack occurred at night seemingly in a public place. All involved were young. It is unclear if the attacker and victims knew each other or how the incident began.

Due to the ages, the time and the event, it seems likely that alcohol or substance abuse could have contributed to this attack.


The above chart, also using data from the ONS, shows total number of incidents where a firearm was used.

And here is a further extract regarding firearms offences from the ONS data.

Offences involving firearms increased by 13% (to 5,864) compared with the previous year (5,176 offences). This was largely driven by a 15% increase (up to 2,497, from 2,162) in offences involving handguns and partly by a 28% increase (up to 532, from 416) in offences involving shotguns and a 10% increase (up to 1,523, from 1,379) in offences involving imitation weapons (such as BB guns).

But just how bad is gun violence in the UK compared to the US? The The New York Times has an interesting fact:

In England, only about one out of every million people die in gun homicides each year — about as often as an American dies in an agricultural accident or falling from a ladder - 0.9 deaths per 1 million people.
— NYTimes

Interesting perspective.

Here are a couple of examples of firearm incidents in the UK from 2016.



The Guardian:

A 72-year-old woman has been injured in a targeted drive-by shooting by a gunman riding a motorbike in Liverpool. The woman was shot in the leg by the gunman in the doorway of her home. The motive was said to be unclear but the attack was believed to be targeted.

Merseyside police said the woman – who was in a stable condition – was shot by one of two men on a motorbike at about 6.10pm on Tuesday, before the pair rode away from the scene in Peckmill Green in the Netherley area of the city.

Quick recap of key points: This apparent targeted killing occurred in the early evening. Targeted killings occur between people/organisations that know each other.

There seem to be more and more incidents in the UK of guns being used by organised crime. It is unclear if this gang use of guns is solely responsible for the increase in gun attacks but it is worthy of noting.

While someone interested in self defence may not be directly involved in organised crime, if it goes on around you it could also effect you - including being caught up in crossfire during an exchange of gunfire.



The Guardian:

A “cold, calculated and scheming” man killed his wife and daughter before turning the gun on himself, an inquest has heard.

Charlotte Hart, 19, and her mother Claire, 50, were killed by Lance Hart, 57, near the Castle sports complex in Spalding, Lincolnshire, in July. Lance Hart then shot himself using the single-barrel shotgun.

The shooting happened days after Claire Hart had left the family home after a breakdown in their marriage.

Quick recap of key points: The attacker knew his victims. In this case, they were family. A relationship breakdown probably directly led to the unfortunate events.

Many incidents of violent crime occur between people who are close. This is the sort of violent crime where emotions come into play. A marriage breakdown is often the most emotional thing anyone can go through - short of dealing with a death of someone close to you.

I will just quickly reiterate, we need to be just as mindful that people we know can be just as dangerous to us as people we don’t know.

Why is gun crime rising in the UK?


More guns being smuggled in can’t help:

More guns are being seized in cities across Britain as the number of firearms being smuggled into the country increases, Britain’s most senior police officer has said.

The Met seized a “worrying” record number of weapons in 2015, including semiautomatic guns, Hogan-Howe said.

“We’ve seized more firearms than ever before,” he said. “In the previous year [2015] we’ve seized 714 guns – that’s around two per day. In a city this size, that’s a worrying number. This is an increase on previous years. Some of them are semiautomatic weapons, too.


Here's an interesting tidbit buried in the notes of the recently released data,

80% of violent crimes experienced in the latest survey year resulted in minor or no injury, so in just over three-quarters of cases the violence is low level.

I found this surprising. I would have assumed more cases would have resulted in more significant injuries.


So that brings us to end of our mini deep-dive into knife and gun violence in the UK. A little sprinkling of video, data, graphs, images, case studies and commentary.

I hope you got something out of this.

If you would like to learn to learn more about violent crime, including about violent crime in the US, and how to utilise knowledge of violent crime for a self defence gain, you might want to check out our FREE online course called Understanding Modern Violence.

The course dives further into violent crime analysis, compares animal violent behaviour with human violent behaviour to examine unique insights (this may surprise you) and shows you how to apply violent crime knowledge for self defence.

Just tell me where to send the details.

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Opening image credit: Wasi Daniju