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Offensive Weapons: Sentencing

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 11 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people have received the maximum sentence of four years custody for possession of a knife. (298076)

Since 12 February 2007 the maximum custodial sentence for knife or offensive weapon possession offences has been four 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:

According to data recorded by the police on the Police National Computer, during the period March 2007 to June 2009, six offences (committed by six offenders) of possession of a knife or offensive weapon received a four year custodial sentence in England and Wales.

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.