‘Depressing’ increase in knife crime

The number of young offenders cautioned or sentenced after being caught with knives has hit the highest level for nearly eight years. EMN-190115-095048001
The number of young offenders cautioned or sentenced after being caught with knives has hit the highest level for nearly eight years. EMN-190115-095048001

The number of criminals in Lincolnshire convicted or cautioned for knife crime, after previously being caught carrying a blade, has increased by more than half over the last three years.

New Ministry of Justice data reveals that Lincolnshire Police took action against 198 people in the 12 months to September 2018, either for possession of a knife as a weapon or threatening someone with one.

Of those, 55 (or 28 per cent) had at least one previous offence for carrying a knife, and seven of the criminals had three or more past offences.

That figure has increased since 2014-15, when 36 of those successfully prosecuted had reoffended. Police bosses say this could be down to improved identification techniques.

Patrick Green, chief executive of anti-knife charity the Ben Kinsella Trust, said the figures were “deeply depressing” and said: “This indicates we cannot rely solely on prison if we are going to tackle the small but significant number of habitual reoffenders.

“These are people who are stuck in a spiral of violent crime.”

Mr Green said treating knife crime as a public health issue, adopted in some parts of the country, could start to tackle “underlying causes of knife crime”.

Across England and Wales, the number of reoffenders increased by 35 per cent over the last three years. In Lincolnshire, in 2017-18, eight children were charged with knife offences. This was a 43 per cent drop on 2014-15.

Mr Green continued: “I’m confident that a public health approach will work, it will stop the next youngsters getting caught in the cycle of violent crime.

“It won’t work immediately, but given time, as we’ve seen in Glasgow and US cities, if it’s properly funded it can be successful.”

Overall, five per cent fewer people were cautioned or convicted by Lincolnshire Police for knife offences in 2017-18, compared with the previous 12 months.

The vast majority were for possession offences, while three were charged with making threats with a knife.

A total of 61 offenders were sent to prison, 46 were given community orders and 12 received a caution.

Across England and Wales, in the year to September, 21,381 cases were dealt with by the criminal justice system, the highest number since 2010. In one in five cases, offenders were aged under 18.

The MoJ report said offenders are now more likely to receive a custodial sentence for knife and offensive weapon offences.