Lancashire's knife criminals walking free from court
Only two in five knife criminals in Lancashire face an immediate prison sentence.
Knife crime has hit the headlines after a spate of fatal stabbings across the country, and justice minister, Rory Stewart, insists offenders are now more likely to go to jail for knife offences.
In 2018, 516 people were cautioned or convicted by Lancashire Constabulary for possession of a knife or offensive weapon, or threatening with a knife, according to Ministry of Justice data. Of those, just 189 – or 37 per cent – received an immediate prison sentence.
In 117 cases knife criminals were handed a community order, 117 offenders were given a suspended sentence and a further 43 were given a fine or discharged from court without a sentence.
Lancashire Constabulary also cautioned 50 people for knife crime offences.The proportion of knife criminals in Lancashire being sent to prison dropped, from 44 per cent in 2017.
Across England and Wales, the percentage of offenders getting immediate custody decreased slightly to 34 per cent in 2018.
However that figure is higher than in 2015, when the two-strike rule was imposed, with a minimum six-month prison sentence for criminals caught twice in possession of a blade.
Justice minister Rory Stewart said: “Knife crime destroys lives and shatters communities, and this government is doing everything in its power to tackle its devastating consequences.
“Sentences for those carrying knives are getting tougher - they are more likely to be sent straight to prison, and for longer - than at any time in the last decade.”
In Lancashire last year, one in six criminals cautioned or convicted were children. Of the 516, 145 were re-offenders and 26 had been cautioned or convicted three times or more.
The number of knife criminals being dealt with overall by Lancashire Constabulary increased by 27 per cent since 2017.
A string of recent deaths across the country has prompted intense scrutiny of efforts to combat spiralling knife crime and serious violence.
In the 12 months to March last year, the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales reached the highest level since records started, more than 70 years ago.
Last year also saw the highest number of cautions or convictions for possession or threatening offences in almost a decade.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced a £100m cash injection for forces to tackle the problem, and the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has unveiled plans for new knife crime prevention orders.