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Offensive Weapons: Sentencing

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many offenders received (a) a caution, (b) immediate custody, (c) a fine, (d) a community sentence, (e) an absolute or conditional discharge and (f) another disposal for unlawful possession of a knife in the last year for which data are available. (263846)

The requested information is shown in the following table. Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice in the first quarterly knife crime sentencing bulletin (on 12 March) showed:

More offenders are being sent to jail (23 per cent.): the number of offences resulting in immediate custody rose from 1,125 in the last quarter of 2007 to 1,386 in the same period of 2008. On average there was a 40 per cent. increase in the number of prisoners serving a sentence for possession of an offensive weapon between the same periods.

Fewer cautions being issued: the number fell 31 per cent. over the same period (1,706 in the last quarter of 2008 compared to 2,455 in the same period of 2007).

More use of tougher community sentences: the number of offences resulting in community sentences rose 16 per cent. (from 1,861 in the last quarter of 2007 to 2,151 in the same period of 2007).

Longer sentences: the average immediate custodial sentence has risen by 38 per cent. (from 133 days in the last quarter of 2007 to 184 days in the same period of 2008).

The proportion of all possession offences resulting in immediate custody rose to 21 per cent. in the last quarter of 2008 from 17 per cent. in the same period of 2007. The proportion of offences resulting in a caution decreased from 36 per cent. in the last quarter of 2007 to 25 per cent. in the last quarter of 2008.

The statistics also show a decline in the total number of offences involving possession of a knife or other offensive weapon (6,704 offences were dealt with between October and December last year, compared to 6,808 in the same period of 2007).

The figures presented are taken from the Ministry of Justice’s publication “Knife Crime Sentencing: Quarterly Brief” published on 12 March 2009 and available from:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/knife-crime-sentencing.htm

These figures have been drawn from the police’s administrative IT system, the police national computer (PNC), which, as with any large scale recording system, is subject to possible errors with data entry and processing. The figures are provisional and subject to change as more information is recorded by the police.

PNC data have been used here rather than court data, which are the usual source of published sentencing statistics, as the PNC provides more up-to-date figures ahead of the finalised annual court data.

Offences involving the possession of a knife or offensive weapon resulting in a caution or sentence1, 2, England and Wales, 2008

Number

Total

27,644

Cautions (includes juvenile reprimands and final warnings)

8,368

Absolute/conditional discharge

1,337

Fine

1,091

Community sentence

8,401

Suspended sentence

2,432

Immediate custody

5,317

Other disposal

698

1 As recorded by the police on the police national computer.

2 The figures are a count of offences rather than offenders. Where an offender has been sentenced for several possession offences, each sentence has been counted.

Data Source and Quality

These figures have been drawn from the police’s administrative IT systems which, as with any large scale recording system, is subject to possible errors with data entry and processing. The figures are provisional and subject to change as more information is recorded by the police.

Source:

OMS Analytical Services, Ministry of Justice.