Knife crime offenders as young as 10 as shocking figures hit a six-year high in Lancashire

Knife crime offenders as young as 10 as shocking figures hit a six-year high
Knife crime offenders as young as 10 as shocking figures hit a six-year high
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Convictions and cautions for first-time knife crime offenders in Lancashire have reached a six-year high, figures reveal.

Labour MP Sarah Jones, chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime, says violent crime is now a national crisis following a rise in punishments for first-time knife offenders.

Ministry of Justice figures show that 368 criminals were sentenced or cautioned for a first knife or offensive weapon crime in the year to June.

They accounted for 71 per cent of all knife-related cautions and convictions in Lancashire, and represented the highest number of first-time offenders since the year to June 2013.

The statistics include possession of, or threatening with, a knife or offensive weapon, and one sentence or caution can include multiple offences.

The rise broadly reflects the trend across England and Wales, where 14,200 first-time knife offenders received a conviction or caution in the year to June – the highest number since the 12 months to June 2011.

They made up 71 per cent of punishments, though this was down from the 78 per cent share eight years earlier.

The figures also show that children aged 10 to 15 were convicted or cautioned on 36 occasions in Lancashire – accounting for seven per cent of knife-related crimes in the area.

Sarah Jones said: “These figures provide yet more evidence that knife crime is a national crisis which continues to grow.

“What’s especially concerning is the number of new knife offenders, some as young as 10 years old.”

A recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime warned that children being excluded from school could be a “tipping point” that leads them to pick up the weapons.

The group has called for schools to be more accountable for the pupils they exclude.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said a future with “no qualifications, no job prospects and no role models” is making many young people vulnerable to gangs who coerce them into carrying knives.

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

In Lancashire, 37 per cent of convictions and cautions for knife-related crime led to an immediate prison sentence, higher than the 34% who went straight into a custodial sentence across England and Wales.

Mr Khan said: “Tough sentences are part of the solution, but we need to tackle the root causes and understand why those involved carry knives.”

Justice minister Chris Philp said the figures show that those caught carrying a knife are more likely to be sent to prison, and for longer, than at any time in the last decade.

He added: “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.”

Why youngsters are vulnerable to gangs

A recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime warned that children being excluded from school could be a “tipping point” that leads them to pick up the weapons.

The group has called for schools to be more accountable for the pupils they exclude.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said a future with “no qualifications, no job prospects and no role models” is making many young people vulnerable to gangs who coerce them into carrying knives. “To break the cycle of violence, we need to reach them before they reach for a knife.”

Victim’s sister speaks out

Just last month, The Gazette reported how Blackpool had one of the highest rates of knife crime in the UK.

A woman whose brother was stabbed to death in the resort called for tougher sentences in a bid to tackle the growing problem of blades on the streets.

Beverley Keenan, of Ribble Road, lost her brother Wayne in June 2000 when he was stabbed to death in his Chapel Street flat by his friend Mark Oldfield, of Halton Moor, Leeds. Oldfield was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter, but was released in 2005.

Beverley, 54, said: “I said it 20 years ago that it was going to get worse, and it is. I wrote to every MP in Parliament at the time and told them that sentences needed to be stronger, but nothing changed.

“People get tougher sentences for dealing drugs and robbing banks than they do for taking lives.”

According to figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, there were 14.3 offences involving a knife or sharp object for every 100,000 people in Blackpool last year.

In the North West, only Liverpool and Manchester had higher knife crime rates.

This compares to 2.4 serious knife crimes per 10,000 people in Wyre and 2.7 in Fylde.

The figures also revealed offences had gone up 40 per cent between 2016 and 2018.

Ms Keenan added: “There are families devastated. I have got young nephews and I’m scared to death every time they go out that something will happen to them.”

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We are continuing to raise awareness of the dangers of carrying a knife among children and young people, regularly visiting schools to talk to students about the dangers of carrying a knife.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy towards knife possession, and anyone who is found to be in possession of a knife could face up to five years in prison.

“Nationally, young people who end up in hospital with a knife injury have usually been stabbed with their own knife - carrying a knife puts you at risk. You don’t have to use the knife to get a criminal record - just being in possession of a blade in public is illegal.”

Giving up the knives

A local barber took it upon himself to help in the fight against knife crime by urging his customers to hand in their blades.

And Theo Petrocelli said he was “horrified” by the latest knife to be left at his Lytham shop under the Barbers Against Blades amnesty campaign.

Theo, who runs the Lucky 13 salon in Clifton Walk, said: “It came from a gentleman who has a wife and children, so not a youth, “ said Theo.

“He had his haircut the day after the article about the campaign appeared and he mentioned he had a knife he carried when walking his dog at night,” said Theo.

“I explained the legality of what he was actually doing and explained he could possibly end up in prison just carrying such an offensive weapon.

“We had a serious talk about life choices and the like and he came back a few days later to surrender the blade.”

More details about the campaign at www.barbersagainstblades.co.uk