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Offensive Weapons: Police Cautions

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people were cautioned for carrying a knife in the last year for which figures are available. (254497)

The number of offenders cautioned for illegal knife possession in 2007 (the latest year available) in England and Wales was 7,404.

ACPO guidance issued on 22 July 2008 makes it clear that anyone over the age of 16 caught in possession of a knife can now expect to be prosecuted on the first offence. Those under 16 can expect a formal final warning coupled with a knife education scheme to help them understand the potentially devastating consequences of carrying knives.

Revised guidance issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council on 1 August states that the starting point for sentencing a level one (i.e. least serious) first time adult offender caught in possession for a knife who pleads not guilty should be 12 weeks in custody. More information can be found at:

Illegal knife possession includes the following offences:

Having an article with blade or point in public place and having an article with blade or point on school premises.

From 1 June 2000 the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 came into force nationally and removed the use of cautions for persons under 18 and replaced them with reprimands and final warnings. These figures have been included in the total.

The statistics relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offence for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences the principal offence is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.