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Criminal Justice Act 1996: Convictions

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people were (a) prosecuted and (b) convicted for an offence under sections 139 and 139A of the Criminal Justice Act 1996 in 2007; and on how many occasions the maximum sentence of imprisonment was imposed. (263178)

Information showing the number of persons proceeded against at magistrates courts, found guilty, sentenced, and sentenced to immediate custody at all courts for offences under sections 139 and 139A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (as amended by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996) and under section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 in England and Wales in 2007 are shown in the table.

The statutory maximum penalty is reserved generally for the worst of cases for which it is prescribed and therefore rarely imposed. This is true across all types of offences.

If it was found that the courts were sentencing at, or near, the maximum for any offence with any degree of frequency this would cause us to look at the maximum penalty to see if it were set high enough to cater for the cases coming before the courts. It is likely that the courts would draw our attention to any such cases and indicate that they did not consider that their powers were sufficient.

More offenders are being sent to jail for 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).

Number of persons proceeded against at magistrates courts, found guilty, sentenced, sentenced to immediate custody and given the maximum custodial sentence at all courts for offences under sections 139 and 139A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and section 1 of the 1953 Prevention of Crime Act, England and Wales, 20071,2

Offence

Statute

Proceeded against

Found guilty

Total sentenced

Number sentenced to immediate custody

Given the maximum determinate custodial sentence

Possession of offensive weapons without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

Prevention of Crime Act 1953 Sec. 1(1) as amended by Offensive Weapons Act 1996 S.2(1).

7,702

5,636

5,585

852

0

Having an article with blade or point in public place.

Criminal Justice Act 1988 S.139 as amended by Offensive Weapons Act 1996 S3.

7,356

6,123

6,121

1,060

32

Having an article with blade or point on school premises.

Criminal Justice Act 1988 S.139A (1)(5)(a) as added by Offensive Weapons Act 1996 S.4(1).

48

46

45

5

0

Possession of offensive weapons without lawful authority or reasonable excuse on school premises.

Criminal Justice Act 1988 S.139A (2)(5)(b) as added by Offensive Weapons Act 1996 S.4(1).

33

27

26

1

0

1 The statistics relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences 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.

2 Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

3 The maximum determinate sentence for possessing an article with a blade or point in a public place or at school was changed from two to four years by the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 for offences committed on or after 12 February 2007. Data held on the Ministry Courts Proceeding Database do not identify the date the offence was committed so it cannot be determined which maximum sentence offenders would have been eligible for. The maximum used here is two years. No offenders received a four year custodial sentence.

Source:

Evidence and Analysis Unit—Office for Criminal Justice Reform.