Number of first-time knife crime offenders rises 25% in five years

The number of first-time knife crime offenders has risen by 25% in the last five years, official figures show.

The proportion of repeat offenders sentenced who had previous convictions for similar crimes has also jumped to nearly 30%, its highest level on record.

There were 11,429 criminals who were caught for committing their first knife or weapon offence in the year ending June 2014 but this increased to 14,235 in the year ending June 2019, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data.

The proportion of repeat offenders sentenced who had previous convictions or cautions for possession of a knife or offensive weapon rose year-on-year from 3,873 (25%) to 5,774 (29%).

Knife and offensive weapon offences dealt with by the criminal justice system
(PA Graphics)

In the 12 months to the end of June, 22,306 knife or dangerous weapon offences were formally dealt with by the criminal justice system in England and Wales, up from 21,314 in the same period the previous year.

This is the highest number on record since 2010, when 22,689 offences were dealt with.

But it is not the highest level ever recorded, as a year earlier, in the same period in 2009, the figure was 27,225.

Offenders are now more likely to be sent to jail and be behind bars for longer, the MoJ said.

The figures showed 38% of the offences to the end of June (8,446) resulted in an immediate custodial sentence, compared with 23% for the same period in 2009.

But suspended sentences were also handed out in 4,326 cases – the highest rate since records began.

Figures also showed rising rates of cautions and community sentences.

The average length of a jail sentence rose over the same period of time from 5.9 months to 8.1 months.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said knife crime in England and Wales hit a record high in the year to June, up by 7% on the previous 12 months.

Police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument rose to 44,076, according to data which did not include statistics from Greater Manchester Police, who record data differently.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “Tough sentences are part of the solution, but we need to tackle the root causes and understand why those involved carry knives.

“Often it’s because they’re facing poverty of hope – a future with no qualifications, no job prospects and no role models, making them vulnerable to criminal gangs who coerce them to carry knives and deliver drugs.

“To break the cycle of violence, we need to reach them before they reach for a knife.

“The Government urgently needs to work with charities, education, health, youth workers, the criminal justice system and local communities to find long-term answers and restore children’s hope, so they have a reason to turn away from crime.”

Justice minister Chris Philp said: “This Government is determined to keep communities safe and tackle the devastating impact of knife crime.

“For those caught carrying a knife, these figures show you’re more likely to be sent to prison – and for longer – than at any time in the last decade.

“But we are doing more to build public trust in the justice system – recruiting 20,000 police officers, extending stop and search powers and making sure the most violent offenders spend longer behind bars.”

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