Full scale of knife crime 'epidemic' laid bare as one in five culprits aged under 18

The Ministry of Justice has published the latest knife and offensive weapons sentencing statistics Credit: ITV News

The full scale of Britain's knife crime crisis has been laid bare with new figures showing one in five offenders are aged under 18.

The number of criminals caught with knives or dangerous weapons has hit its highest level in nearly a decade, official figures show.

Here's what we've learned

  • 21,484 knife and offensive weapon offences were dealt with by the Criminal Justice System. This is the highest number of offences dealt with since 2009 (25,103)

  • In 4,430 instances - 21% of the total - the offender was aged 10 to 17

  • 63% of all knife and offensive weapon offences are for possession of an article with a blade or point

  • 37% of knife and offensive weapon offences ended in an immediate custodial sentence - meaning almost two-thirds of offenders evaded jail

  • The average prison term is 8.1 months

  • For 72%, this was their first knife or offensive weapon possession offence

  • Sentences for repeat offenders were 7.8 months in 2018

  • 7,016 cases where an individual was found with an offensive weapon, and 913 where a blade or weapon was used to make threats against others

These figures come after a spate of fatal stabbings on Britain’s streets which have prompted warnings of a “national emergency”.

The Government insists offenders are now more likely to go to jail for knife or offensive weapons crimes.

Yet, the statistics also showed that almost two-thirds of cases did not result in an immediate prison term.

The findings come as police and ministers attempt to face down a knife crime "epidemic" following a spate of fatal stabbings.

As of the first week of March, 17 people had been fatally stabbed in London alone.

17-year-old Jodie Chesney was stabbed to death on March 1 in Romford. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

On Thursday, a third person appeared in court charged with the murder of Jodie Chesney, who was stabbed to death in a park in Harold Hill, east London, on March 1 as she listened to music with a group of friends.

Svenson Ong-a-kwie appeared at Barkingside Magistrates' Court in east London charged with one count of murder.

The 18-year-old, of Hillfoot Road in Romford, was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on Monday, the court said.

  • The role of local communities

The 27-foot Knife Angel was designed by artist Alfie Bradley. Credit: Coventry City Council

Local communities are increasingly recognising the role they can pay in helping to tackle knife crime.

On Thursday, a huge sculpture made of 100,000 confiscated knives will be displayed in Coventry Cathedral, the 27-foot-high Knife Angel a physical reminder of the effects of violence and aggression.

It took four years to build the sculpture after the Home Office granted permission to British Ironwork Centre to collect the weapons at knife banks from police force areas.

The sculpture will be on display at Coventry Cathedral until April 23 before heading out across the country.

Met Police boss Cressida Dick with home secretary Sajid Javid. Credit: PA
  • What is the government doing to fight knife crime?

The prime minister has repeatedly rebuffed a correlation between a fall in frontline police officers and the spike in fatal stabbings, an opinion echoed by chancellor Philip Hammond.

But several senior figures in policing have disputed Theresa May's assertion, with Britain's most senior police officer, Met Police chief Cressida Dick, saying there is "obviously" a link to violent crime and cuts to youth services and police numbers.

Following the Ministry of Justice report, justice minister Rory Stewart said the "government is doing everything in its power to tackle" knife crime, with an emphasis on tougher sentences for offenders.

Mr Stewart said: "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."

On Wednesday, Mr Hammond announced a £100 million cash injection for forces to tackle the problem as part of his Spring Statement.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has also unveiled plans for new knife crime prevention orders.

The powers could be used to impose curfews or restrictions on social media use on anyone aged 12 or over who police suspect of carrying a blade.