Only one in four knife criminals in Devon and Cornwall get immediate prison term, data reveals

Picture: Radar

Picture: Radar - Credit: Archant

Only one in four knife criminals in Devon and Cornwall face an immediate prison sentence, new figures have revealed.

Knife crime has hit the headlines after a spate of fatal stabbings across the country, and justice minister, Rory Stewart, insists offenders are now more likely to go to jail for knife offences.

In 2018, 326 people were cautioned or convicted by Devon and Cornwall Police for possession of a knife or offensive weapon, or threatening with a knife, according to Ministry of Justice data.

Of those, just 88 – or 27 per cent – received an immediate prison sentence.

In 64 cases knife criminals were handed a community order, 61 offenders were given a suspended sentence and a further 63 were given a fine or discharged from court without a sentence.

Devon and Cornwall Police also cautioned 50 people for knife crime offences.

The proportion of knife criminals in Devon and Cornwall being sent to prison dropped, from 32 per cent in 2017.

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Across England and Wales, the percentage of offenders getting immediate custody decreased slightly to 34 per cent in 2018.

However that figure is higher than in 2015, when the two-strike rule was imposed, with a minimum six-month prison sentence for criminals caught twice in possession of a blade.

Justice minister Rory Stewart said: “Knife crime destroys lives and shatters communities, and this government is doing everything in its power to tackle its devastating consequences.

“Sentences for those carrying knives are getting tougher - they are more likely to be sent straight to prison, and for longer - than at any time in the last decade.”

In Devon and Cornwall last year, one in seven criminals cautioned or convicted were children.

Of the 326, 88 were re-offenders and 19 had been cautioned or convicted three times or more.

The number of knife criminals being dealt with overall by Devon and Cornwall Police fell by nine per cent since 2017.

A string of recent deaths across the country has prompted intense scrutiny of efforts to combat spiralling knife crime and serious violence.

In the 12 months to March last year, the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales reached the highest level since records started, more than 70 years ago.

Last year also saw the highest number of cautions or convictions for possession or threatening offences in almost a decade.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced a £100million cash injection for forces to tackle the problem, and the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has unveiled plans for new knife crime prevention orders.