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Knife and offensive weapon offences reach highest level for decade

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Numbers of knife and offensive weapon offences have risen to their highest level for nearly a decade, with the number of cases dealt with by the criminal justice system up by more than a third since 2015, figures have revealed.

Figures on sentences handed out for such crimes, published by the Ministry of Justice, showed there were 22,041 knife and weapon offences formally dealt with by the criminal justice system in the year ending March 2019.

This represented an increase of 34% since 2015, when the number was 16,438, and is the highest rate since 2010, when the number was 23,667.

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In the year ending March 2019, 37% of knife and offensive weapon offences resulted in an immediate custodial sentence, compared with 22% in 2009, when the data was first published. The average length of the custodial sentences rose to the longest in a decade, from 5.5 months to 8.1 months.

The new figures include the offences of possession or threatening with an offensive weapon or possession of an article with a blade or point. They do not include murders or assaults that may have involved knives or offensive weapons.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics in April showed a 6% increase in all offences involving knives in 2018. Police recorded 40,829 such crimes, the highest number the ONS has on record since 2011.

In March the chancellor, Philip Hammond, handed an extra £100m to police forces in England and Wales after a spate of fatal stabbings led to a renewed focus on the rising knife crime and police resources.

Last month, 18-year-old McCaulay Junior Urugbezi-Edwards became the 29th person to be stabbed to death in the capital so far this year. The ONS said one-third of offences involving knives were in London and use of bladed weapons was concentrated in urban areas.

Thursday’s MoJ figures revealed that the number of juvenile offenders convicted or cautioned for possession or threats using a knife or offensive weapon increased by almost half (48%) between the year ending March 2015 and the year ending March 2019.

The increase in adult offenders over the same period was smaller, at 31%. However, adult offenders still accounted for 74% of the total increase in cautions and convictions received for those offences in that period.

The figures also revealed an increasing number of repeat offenders, with the proportion of offenders with a previous knife or offensive weapon offence rising to 28%, the highest level since 2009, when it was 20%.

The justice minister, Robert Buckland, said: “These figures show that if you are caught carrying a knife you are more likely to be sent to prison – and for longer – than at any time in the last decade.

“But we are doing more – the government’s Offensive Weapons Act will make it harder for young people to buy knives and help the police target those most at risk of being drawn into serious violence.”

In March, more than 10,000 knives were seized and 1,372 suspects arrested during a week-long national knife crime crackdown. Officers carried out 3,771 weapons searches, during which 342 knives were found. Another 10,215 were handed in as part of amnesties.

Diana Fawcett, chief officer at Victim Support, said: “It’s distressing to see knife crime offences continue to rise and the impact of this is something we are dealing with every day in our work. It’s so important to remember that behind these statistics are victims, bereaved families and friends, witnesses and communities who have all been left devastated.”

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