Knife possession offences rise above 14,000 to 10-year high

The number of people convicted or cautioned for carrying a knife has hit the highest level in a decade.

Last year, 14,219 offences for possession of an article with a blade or point were dealt with by the police and courts in England and Wales.

This is up 4% since 2018 (13,632) and the highest figure since 2009 when the figures were first compiled (12,973), according to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics.

Cautions and convictions for crimes of this kind hit their lowest level in 2013 (9,450) and have steadily risen since then.

The total number of knife crime offences handled by the criminal justice system in the year to December was 22,285 – up 3% on 2018 (21,600).

The latest overall figure includes 7,166 possession of offensive weapon crimes and 900 of threatening with a knife or offensive weapon.

The number of suspended sentences being handed out for knife crime was also the highest in a decade.

There were 3,287 in 2009 and the figures reached their lowest level in 2012 (2,251), before rising again to 3,942 in 2018 and 4,376 last year.

Equally the number of immediate jail sentences handed out for such offences was at a 10-year record high last year at 8,383, up from 8,174 in 2018 and 5,733 in 2009.

The figures come after politicians and charity campaigners called for urgent, major investment in youth services to prevent youngsters being drawn into knife crime.

In the Budget on Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised £5 million to the Youth Endowment Fund to help tackle violence involving young people.

At the beginning of the year, the Prime Minister ordered all Whitehall departments to take action on tackling crime.

Boris Johnson told ministers every department should consider itself a criminal justice department as part of a drive to look at the “complex causes of crime” which would involve long-term reforms to improve health, social care, youth services and education.

In October, the Office for National Statistics revealed police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument hit a record high in the year to June, up 7% on the previous 12 months to 44,076.

The latest MoJ figures show that for most offenders (71%), this was their first crime of this kind.

According to the report, offenders are now more likely to be handed a longer immediate jail sentence for knife and weapon offences – with eight months being the average length of a prison term for such crimes.

The report stressed the figures for the latest year were provisional estimates.

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