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Sentencing: Offensive Weapons

Volume 502: debated on Tuesday 8 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer of 11 November 2009, Official Report, columns 482-3W, on offensive weapons, how many of the six offences receiving the maximum sentence relate specifically to possession of an article with a blade or point. (303789)

Since 12 February 2007 the maximum custodial sentence for knife or offensive weapon possession offences is 4 years. Therefore the answer gives data from March 2007 to June 2009 (the most recent published data from the Knife Crime Sentencing Quarterly brief). Further information is available at:

With reference to the answer of 11 November 2009, Official Report, columns 482-83W, on offensive weapons, which stated six offences received the maximum sentence of four years custody for possession of a knife or offensive weapon, two of these offences (committed by two offenders) were for possession of an article with a blade or a point.

Maximum penalties are set at a level to provide for the most serious conceivable case of a particular offence and therefore are rarely imposed.

More custodial sentences are being given for knife and offensive weapon possession and those that are sent to jail are serving longer sentences. The proportion of immediate custodial sentences given for possessing a knife or offensive weapon increased from 17 per cent. to 19 per cent. of all sentences between the second quarter of 2008 compared with the same period in 2009. The average sentence length in the second quarter 2009 was 194 days which is a 42 per cent. increase from the same quarter in 2008.

These figures have been drawn from the police's administrative IT system 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.