Yesterday, the Ministry of Justice published the latest Knife and Offensive Weapon Sentencing Statistics for
England and Wales for the year ending June 2019.
The main findings are that the official number of knife crimes continues to rise and that offenders are more likely to receive an immediate custodial sentence and a longer one.
The graphic below summarises the main points.
In the year ending June 2019 22,306 knife and offensive weapon offences were formally dealt with by the CJS. This is a 5% increase on the same period the previous year and is the highest number of offences dealt with since the year ending June 2010 (22,689). This increase may in part be driven by the political emphasis on knife crime but almost definitely indicates a real increase in the number of offences.
Immediate custodial sentences are now at the highest level since the series began. In the year ending June 2019 over a third (38% or 8,446 offences) of all knife and offensive weapon offences resulted in immediate custody compared with just 6,212 offences or 23% in the year ending June 2009. This increase has been driven by adults, for whom there was
a 39% increase in offenders receiving immediate custody in the period.
The increase in average custodial sentence length between the year ending June 2009 and the year ending June 2019 was seen in all age groups and offence types but particularly for adults, for whom it increased from 5.8 months to 8.1 months, and for possession of blade or point offences, where it increased from 5.1 months to 7.5 months.
My chart below shows the changes in knife crime sentencing on a quarterly basis since the start of 2016.
The decrease in the proportion of first time knife and offensive weapon offenders has been seen for both adults and juveniles, with the proportion for adults decreasing from 77% to 68% between the year ending June 2009 and the year ending June 2019 and the proportion for juveniles decreasing from 92% to 83% over the same period.
However, whilst the proportion of first time offenders for this offence type has fallen there has been an increase in the number of offenders dealt with for their first knife and offensive weapons offence in each of the last 5 years – increasing from 11,429 occasions in the year ending June 2014 to 14,235 occasions in the year ending June 2019 (a 25% increase). This follows a 45% decrease in similar offenders dealt with between the year ending June 2009 and the year ending June 2014 (from 20,707 occasions to 11,429).
Since the year ending June 2013 both the number and proportion of offenders dealt with who had one or more previous knife and offensive weapons possession offences increased year on year, rising from 25% or 3,873 occasions to 29% or 5,774 occasions.
This is a depressing set of statistics. Knife crime is up despite sentences becoming tougher which questions the effectiveness of sentencing as a deterrent.
Also, although the proportion of first time knife offenders has gone down, the actual number of people convicted of knife offences has gone up every year for the last five years.
Thanks to No Knives, Better Lives for the stock image at the header of this post. NKBL has co-designed a series of images with young people to avoid sensationalising knife crime and contribute to preventing knife carrying.