The number of people caught carrying knives and offensive weapons in England and Wales has reached a nine-year high.
The Ministry Of Justice says this has increased 34% since 2015, and is the highest number since 2010. Almost two-thirds of cases did not result in immediate prison – but for those jailed, the average term was 7.9 months, up from 7.1 months in 2017-18.
The figures record the number of people possessing or making threats with blades or offensive weapons that resulted in a conviction or caution. It comes amid a national debate on the issue of knife crime, following a spate of assaults and killings involving young people.
According to the MoJ, one in five of those convicted or cautioned was aged between 10 and 17, a slight fall on the previous year.
The MoJ started to report the figures in March 2009.
They also show:
In 2018-19, the criminal justice system dealt with 13,986 offences of possession of an article with a blade or point
There were 7,175 cases of possession of an offensive weapon other than a knife or a blade, and 880 where a blade or weapon was used to make threats
The percentage of incidents resulting in an immediate custodial sentence was 37.3%, the same as the previous year
Suspended sentences rose from 18.9% to 19% during the period, while the percentage of those receiving a caution dropped slightly
72% of people found with a knife or offensive were first-time offenders
The MoJ said the average custodial sentence imposed had increased from 7.2 to 7.9 months for adults and 5.9 to 7.7 months for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Charlotte Pickles, from the Reform think tank, said the figures suggested that tougher sentences were not an answer to knife crime, adding: “Politicians focusing on law enforcement are mistaken – you cannot arrest your way out of this.” She said the “root causes – poverty, school exclusion, poor mental health and drugs must be addressed.”
Javed Khan, the chief executive of the charity Barnardo’s, said: “Knife crime is a symptom of a much bigger problem. When young people feel there is little or no possibility of a positive future… they are vulnerable to exploitation and criminality.”
In March, Home Secretary, and leadership hopeful Sajid Javid, called for knife crime to be treated “like a disease”, saying he wanted a legal duty on government departments to help prevent serious violence. Responding to the latest figures, justice minister Robert Buckland said the government was committed to doing everything in its power to stop knife crime and its devastating consequences. He added the Offensive Weapons Act, which came into effect last month, will make it harder for young people to buy knives and help the police target those most at risk of being drawn into violence.