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Knife Crime

Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in Northern Ireland with legislation aimed at reducing knife crime. (104022)

Along with England and Wales, the Violent Crime Reduction Act (“the Act”) made three changes to the law in Northern Ireland with regard to knives. The Act raised the age at which knives can be legally purchased from 16 to 18 years of age; created a new offence of using someone to mind a weapon, which includes specified knives and bladed weapons, with a penalty of up to four years imprisonment; and reduced the threshold for a constable to exercise his power of entry and search of a school and a person on school premises for weapons including knives.

The Government recently concluded a public consultation exercise including a major conference taking views on a series of proposals to improve further Northern Ireland’s laws on knives. The proposals included increasing the penalty for possession of a knife in a public place; extending the list of “offensive weapons”; and increasing penalties for the illegal sale of knives. The consultation also sought views on a knife licensing scheme. I am currently considering the way forward in light of the consultation and the conference.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of those convicted of the possession of knives or bladed articles in Northern Ireland received (a) a fine, (b) a community order, (c) a conditional discharge and (d) a custodial sentence in each of the last five years. (104368)

There is no offence relating to the possession of a “knife” specifically. Offences for which statistics are available refer to the possession of “offensive weapon” or

“article with blade or point”,

within which knives are included. While offensive weapons may not solely be knives further detail relating to type of weapon is not recorded in conviction datasets.

Tables 1 to 5 provide details on the total convicted of offensive weapon offences by offence type and disposal type for 2000 to 2004, the latter being the most up-to-date available at present.

It should be noted that data are collated on the principal offence rule, thus only the most serious offence with which an offender is charged is included.

Table 1: Total number convicted of offensive weapon offences by offence type and disposal type 2000

Fine

Supervision in the community

Conditional discharge

Custodial sentence

Other1

Total

Armed with offensive weapon with intent to commit offence

0

1

0

0

0

1

Possessing offensive weapon in public place

49

19

13

14

22

117

Possessing article with blade or point in public place

3

2

1

0

1

7

Possessing instrument with intent to commit an offence

0

1

0

0

0

1

Possessing article with blade or point on school premises

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessing offensive weapon on school premises

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

52

23

14

14

23

126

Percentage

41.3

18.3

11.1

11.1

18.3

100

1 Includes suspended custody.

Table 2: Total number convicted of offensive weapon offences by offence type and disposal type 2001

Fine

Supervision in the community

Conditional discharge

Custodial sentence

Other1

Total

Armed with offensive weapon with intent to commit offence

1

0

0

0

0

1

Possessing offensive weapon in public place

32

25

21

13

17

108

Possessing article with blade or point in public place

6

0

1

0

2

9

Possessing instrument with intent to commit an offence

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessing article with blade or point on school premises

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessing offensive weapon on school premises

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

39

25

22

13

19

118

Percentage

33.1

21.2

18.6

11.0

16.1

100

1 Includes suspended custody.

Table 3: Total number convicted of offensive weapon offences by offence type and disposal type 2002

Fine

Supervision in the community

Conditional discharge

Custodial sentence

Other1

Total

Armed with offensive weapon with intent to commit offence

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessing offensive weapon in public place

51

28

15

22

27

143

Possessing article with blade or point in public place

5

3

3

5

1

17

Possessing instrument with intent to commit an offence

0

0

0

0

1

1

Possessing article with blade or point on school premises

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessing offensive weapon on school premises

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

56

31

18

27

29

161

Percentage

34.8

19.3

11.2

16.8

18.0

100

1 Includes suspended custody.

Table 4: Total number convicted of offensive weapon offences by offence type and disposal type 2003

Fine

Supervision in the community

Conditional discharge

Custodial sentence

Other1

Total

Armed with offensive weapon with intent to commit offence

0

0

0

0

2

2

Possessing offensive weapon in public place

43

44

23

24

27

161

Possessing article with blade or point in public place

6

2

3

3

1

15

Possessing instrument with intent to commit an offence

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessing article with blade or point on school premises

0

1

0

0

0

1

Possessing offensive weapon on school premises

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

49

47

26

27

30

179

Percentage

27.4

26.3

14.5

15.1

16.8

100

1 Includes suspended custody.

Table 5:Total number convicted of offensive weapon offences by offence type and disposal type 2004

Fine

Supervision in the community

Conditional discharge

Custodial sentence

Other1

Total

Armed with offensive weapon with intent to commit offence

0

0

1

0

1

2

Possessing offensive weapon in public place

50

36

22

31

27

166

Possessing article with blade or point in public place

3

3

0

2

2

10

Possessing instrument with intent to commit an offence

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessing article with blade or point on school premises

0

0

1

0

0

1

Possessing offensive weapon on school premises

0

2

0

0

0

2

Total

53

41

24

33

30

181

Percentage

29.3

22.7

13.3

18.2

16.6

100

1 Includes suspended custody.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many and what percentage of those convicted of the possession of knives or bladed articles in Northern Ireland who were sentenced to custody received sentences between (a) six and 12 months, (b) 12 and 18 months and (c) 18 and 26 months in each of the last five years. (104370)

There is no offence relating to the possession of a “knife” specifically. Offences for which statistics are available refer to the possession of “offensive weapon” or

“article with blade or point”,

within which knives are included. While offensive weapons may not solely be knives, further detail relating to type of weapon is not recorded in conviction datasets.

“Possessing offensive weapon in public place”

and

“possessing article with blade or point in public place”

were offences for which an offender was given an immediate custodial sentence during the period covered. Tables 1 and 2, therefore, provide details on sentence length for each offence respectively.

The tables cover the calendar years 2000 to 2004, the latter being the most up-to-date available at present.

It should be noted that data are collated on the principal offence rule, thus only the most serious offence with which an offender is charged is included.

Table 1: Number and percentage sentenced to immediate custody by sentence length for “possessing offensive weapon in public place” 2000-041

Less than 6 months

6 to 12 months

More than 12 months to 18 months

More than 18 months to 26 months

More than 26 months

Total

2000

Number

9

3

0

0

0

12

Percentage

75.0

25.0

0

0

0

100

2001

Number

10

2

0

0

0

12

Percentage

83.3

16.7

0

0

0

100

2002

Number

15

2

0

2

0

19

Percentage

78.9

10.5

0

10.5

0

100

2003

Number

19

5

0

0

0

24

Percentage

79.2

20.8

0

0

0

100

2004

Number

28

1

0

0

1

30

Percentage

93.3

3.3

0

0

3.3

100

1 Figures do not include Juvenile Justice Centre Orders which are for a period of six months unless the court specifies a longer period not exceeding two years.

Table 2: Number and percentage sentenced to immediate custody by sentence length for “possessing offensive article with blade or point in public place” 2000-041

Less than 6 months

6 to 12 months

More than 12 months to 18 months

More than 18 months to 26 months

More than 26 months

Total

2000

Number

0

0

0

0

0

0

Percentage

0

0

0

0

0

0

2001

Number

0

0

0

0

0

0

Percentage

0

0

0

0

0

0

2002

Number

5

0

0

0

0

5

Percentage

100

0

0

0

0

100

2003

Number

3

0

0

0

0

3

Percentage

100

0

0

0

0

100

2004

Number

1

1

0

0

0

2

Percentage

50

50

0

0

0

100

1 Figures do not include Juvenile Justice Centre Orders which are for a period of six months unless the court specifies a longer period not exceeding two years.