Knife possession offences at highest level since 2011
The number of criminals caught with knives or offensive weapons has hit its highest level for six years, official figures reveal.
They show 5,324 knife possession offences resulted in a caution or sentence in England and Wales in the three months from July.
The tally is the highest quarterly figure since the equivalent three-month period of 2011, and a rise of 7% compared with July-September last year.
It includes 3,359 offences of possession of an article with a blade or point, 1,708 of possession of an offensive weapon and 257 of threatening with a knife or offensive weapon.
Government data shows offenders were aged under 18 in a fifth of the 5,234 cases dealt with by the criminal justice system.
The findings come amid concern about a surge in knife violence, particularly in London where there have been a number of fatal stabbings.
Police say youths are increasingly carrying blades for reasons including "status" and self-protection, while campaigners have warned youngsters are becoming increasingly desensitised to knife crime.
More criminals are being sent to prison after being caught with blades or offensive weapons, according to the Ministry of Justice figures.
They show 43% of adult offences and 12% of juvenile offences from July to September resulted in an immediate custodial sentence.
Under a "two strikes" system introduced in 2015, minimum sentences were introduced for those aged 16 and over who are convicted of a second or subsequent offence of possession of a knife or offensive weapon.
For the three months to the end of September, there were an estimated 1,195 cases involving repeat offenders.
Of these, 1,103 involved an adult, 65% of which resulted in an immediate custodial sentence, while an additional 24% were dealt with by a suspended sentence.
Courts must impose the minimum sentence unless there are particular circumstances relating to the latest offence, the previous offence, or the offender which would "make it unjust to do so in all the circumstances".
Earlier this year the Government unveiled plans for a package of measures following a surge in violent offences recorded by police.