Rise in criminals locked up for weapons offences
The number of criminals in prison for possessing weapons has increased by more than a 10th as authorities attempt to counter rising levels of knife violence.
Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics show that 2,470 offenders were behind bars at the end of December after being given an immediate jail sentence for possession of weapons.
The figure was up by 11% compared with a year earlier, when it stood at 2,227.
In a report detailing the statistics, the MoJ said: "This substantial increase can be attributed to a range of factors, including more targeted police operations against knife crime.
"However this offence group only accounts for 3% of the sentenced prison population."
The figures come amid mounting concern over knife violence following a string of fatal stabbings.
Separate crime data released on Thursday revealed that police registered a 21% rise in recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in the year to September.
Most of the offenders locked up for weapons possession crimes as of the end of December were adult males.
But the MoJ figures show a steep a rise in the number of women behind bars for that category of offence.
Ninety-five females were serving an immediate custodial sentence for possession of weapons at the end of last month - a rise of nearly two-thirds (64%) on a year earlier, when there were 58.
Of the total 2,470 offenders, 241, or one in 10, was aged 20 or under.