Responding to the Ministry of Justice’s latest knife and offensive weapon sentencing statistics, published today, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The UK is facing an epidemic of knife crime, but the Conservative’s cack-handed response is to repeat policies that have completely failed in the past.
“Branding young people as criminals – whether by locking them up on destructive short prison sentences or giving them one of Sajid Javid’s gimmicky new knife ASBOs – traps them in a cycle of crime, creating more victims and making our streets less safe.
“To make matters worse, we now have Boris Johnson running for Prime Minister boasting about the supposed success of his Stop & Search policies in London – even though his own Government’s analysis shows they didn’t cut knife crime and were a total waste of police time.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand a public health approach that understands why young people carry knives in the first place and addresses those causes. That means more community policing to make people feel safer and more youth services to provide a positive alternative to gangs.”
The Knife and offensive weapon sentencing statistics: January to March 2019 are available here.
The figures show that there were 22,041 knife and offensive weapons offences in 2018-19, the highest total since 2009-10. In the first three months of 2019 alone, there were 5,759 offences, making it the worst quarter since July-September 2009.
7,599 people were sentenced to prison for knife offences in 2018-19, with an average sentence length of 8 months. This is despite the Ministry of Justice’s own analysis showing that sentences of less than 12 months are ineffective for preventing reoffending.
Mandatory prison sentences:
These figures also show that 9,374 people have been given a mandatory prison sentence for a second offence of possession of a knife or offensive weapon under Section 28 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 since January 2016, with an average sentence length of 7.6 months. The cost per prisoner in 2017-18 was £37,543 per year, meaning the total cost of these mandatory sentences is approximately £221 million. In 2015, the Conservatives introduced mandatory prison sentences for a second knife possession offence – against Liberal Democrat opposition
Stop and search:
A 2016 Home Office analysis of the Met’s ‘Operation BLUNT 2’ (which ran from May 2008 to April 2011) found “no statistically significant crime-reducing effect from the large increase in weapons searches” and that “ambulance call-outs actually fell faster in those boroughs that had smaller increases in weapons searches”. It concluded that “Overall, analysis shows that there was no discernible crime-reducing effects from a large surge in stop and search activity at the borough level during the operation.” The full report is available here.