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Knife crime: one in five carriers jailed, figures say

knives
Image caption The government says any adult who commits a crime using a knife can expect to be sent to prison

One in five people caught carrying a knife is jailed, Ministry of Justice figures for England and Wales suggest.

Some 5,151 offenders were caught in possession between October and December last year, down from 6,956 in the last quarter of 2008.

And 1,012 offenders were jailed in the final quarter of last year, compared with 1,595 in 2008.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We need to send a strong message to those who carry knives."

Guidelines state that the minimum sentence for the lowest level of knife possession should be 12 weeks in jail.

However, the figures reveal that the number caught carrying knives fell by 26%, with a 41% drop among youths.

Of those caught in possession of a knife or offensive weapons in the last quarter of 2010, 20% were locked up compared with 23% in the same period two years earlier.

In 2008, the Sentencing Guidelines Council told magistrates that a Court of Appeal judgement made clear they should sentence those convicted of possession at the top end of the range, with a 12-week starting point for the lowest-level offence.

Community sentences

Of those offenders sent to custody, 32% were jailed for six months or more last year, which marked a rise from 27% two years ago.

The average length of a sentence also increased to 199 days from 175 days.

And the proportion of community sentences handed down for possession rose to 31% from 29%, according to the figures, while the proportion of suspended sentences also rose, from 11% to 13%.

However, the proportion of cautions handed out fell from 25% to 21%.

The Ministry of Justice said: "The government's position is clear: any adult who commits a crime using a knife can expect to be sent to prison and serious offenders can expect a long sentence."

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