UK

Proportion of knife carriers jailed falls

A man holding a knife
Image caption The government is introducing new laws to tackle knife crime among teenagers

The proportion of people jailed for carrying a knife in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level for more than three years.

The Ministry of Justice says just over a fifth - 21% - of those convicted of possessing a knife or offensive weapon between July and September were jailed.

This is less than the previous three months and the lowest figure since the second quarter of 2008.

But the MoJ says this is a provisional figure and may be revised upwards.

Average sentences for those convicted have risen to almost seven months.

The proportion going to jail is still higher than it was in 2007, when it stood at 16%.

The MoJ said 5,466 people were caught carrying knives between July and September, down from 6,490 in 2009.

It says that although knife crime is falling it wants to send a strong message to those who carry knives by bringing in tougher sentences.

Jail terms

Increasing numbers of offenders have been given suspended prison terms and community sentences for carrying knives over the same period of July to September this year.

The total number of knife crimes has been steadily falling in recent years but the government is planning to bring in mandatory minimum sentences for teenagers who threaten people with knives, in response to criticism that people are getting off lightly for knife possession.

The measures will not apply to people under the age of 16 and only apply to England and Wales.

The number of juveniles convicted for knife crimes has fallen massively since 2007 but in the same period the proportion of juveniles going to jail has gone up.

The government is amending the Legal Aid & Sentencing Bill to require a minimum sentence of a four-month Detention and Training Order for 16- and 17-year-olds convicted of threatening people with knives.

According to an impact assessment, this could mean hundreds of extra teenagers will be given custodial sentences every year.

The MoJ assessment says 30 to 60 extra beds would be needed in secure accommodation for young people.

Its report says between 200 to 400 more 16- and 17-year-olds will receive custodial sentences every year at an annual cost of between £2m and £4m a year.

An MoJ spokesman said: "Knife crime is falling but we need to send a strong message to those who carry knives - any adult who commits a crime using a knife can expect to be sent to prison and serious offenders can expect a long sentence.

"Alongside this we are introducing a new offence of aggravated knife possession so anyone aged 16 or over who uses a knife to threaten and endanger others will face a custodial sentence."

Last year the Scottish government said the number of people convicted of carrying knives had fallen to 3,194, the lowest figure for a decade.

But the Scottish government launched a hard-hitting advertising campaign earlier this year, called the No Knives, Better Lives project, which saw a 35% reduction in knife-carrying in Inverclyde and a 29% fall in Renfrewshire.

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