Nearly a third of knife criminals in Bedfordshire are reoffenders

Charity says too many criminals “simply reappear on our streets still carrying weapons"

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 12:10 pm

Nearly a third of adult criminals caught carrying a blade in Bedfordshire have previously committed a knife crime, new figures show.

Anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust says too many offenders “simply reappear on our streets still carrying weapons”.

The figures from the Ministry of Justice reveal there were 116 convictions and cautions for knife possession in the 12 months up to September.

Charity says too many criminals “simply reappear on our streets still carrying weapons"

In 35 cases, or 30 per cent, the offender had committed at least one previous offence of carrying a knife, while in five cases there were three or more past offences.

Immediate prison sentences were given in 22 of the repeat offences while seven were dealt with by suspended jail sentences, two by community orders and one by a caution.

For three of the offences the outcome was not specified in the data.

Patrick Green, chief executive of anti-knife charity the Ben Kinsella Trust, said: "Despite going before the courts and receiving a conviction, too many offenders simply reappear on our streets still carrying weapons.”

Five years ago, new legislation was introduced requiring judges to impose jail terms on adult knife offenders who had already committed a knife crime, unless it would “make it unjust to do so”.

Section 28 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act, otherwise known as the “two strikes and out” system, applies to repeat adult knife offenders who have had a conviction, not a caution.

Mr Green added: “These figures ask serious questions about the effectiveness of the Government’s 'two strikes policy' and whether enough is being done to prevent and rehabilitate offenders.”

In the 12 months to September, there were 17,914 sentences and cautions given to adults and children for knife offences, down 20 per cent from the same period last year.

In Bedfordshire the number fell 31 per cent.

The figures include possessing a knife or other offensive weapon. They exclude offences such as murder and assault.

They are also likely to have been impacted by Covid-19, with restrictions in place for half the annual period.

The Ministry of Justice states repeat knife possession offenders should expect a custodial sentence, but added sentencing remained a matter for independent judges.

Detective Chief Inspector Aaron Kiff said: “Tackling serious youth violence and knife crime is a priority for Bedfordshire Police and last year we saw a nine per cent reduction in incidents of serious youth violence in the county, which equates to 200 fewer victims.

“Carrying a knife has serious consequences. Not only do you risk a hefty fine and jail sentence just for carrying one, you are also more likely to become a victim of knife crime yourself.

“Last month, as part of our commitment to tackling knife crime, we supported the national Op Sceptre week of action to target those who carry knives, to educate our communities and tackle the supply, access and importation of weapons.

“During the week we worked with a number of partners, visited more than 100 retailers, carried out pro-active high visibility patrols and weapon sweeps."