The Government has received another stark reminder of the knife crime epidemic gripping the country as official statistics show the number of offensive weapon offences dealt with by the Criminal Justice System is at its highest for almost a decade. Reacting to the figures, which were released today (14 March) by the Ministry of Justice, National Chair of the Police Federation John Apter said: “These statistic confirm what I, and my members, know to be true - that knife crime is increasing and is devastating our communities.
“They are also indicative of the hard work and dedication shown by police officers in tackling this issue and bringing those who do choose to carry weapons to justice despite there being almost 22,000 fewer of them than there were in 2010.
“And they send a strong message that those found in possession of knives will be dealt with seriously and robustly by the police, and the criminal justice system.”
The data reveals for the year to December 2018, 21,484 knife and offensive weapon offences were formally dealt with - the highest number since 2009 (25,103).
They also show offenders are now more likely to receive an immediate custodial sentence for this type of offence, and that the average length of the custodial sentences received has increased from 5.3 months to 8.1 months.
Mr Apter continued: “I am aware that fighting knife crime is not as simple as just sending people to prison, and there are many factors at play in the fight to combat this epidemic. However, it is good to see that the judiciary are not afraid to use their powers to impose custodial sentences when necessary.
“As difficult as it may be for some to accept, criminals have to be held accountable for their actions - and in some cases that means they need to go to prison. There have to be consequences, because without that, this epidemic of knife crime will continue and children will keep getting murdered on our streets.
“I am reassured that the message is getting through to the whole of society that we will not sit idly by and let carrying a knife – and its potentially fatal consequences - become a cultural norm,” he said.
The release of the figures comes the day after the Chancellor announced an extra £100m of emergency funding will be made available to the police to tackle knife crime.
Mr Apter has welcomed the additional funding but explained it cannot be a long-term solution.
He said: “I made it clear to the Home Secretary when I met him earlier this week that police officers who are at the forefront of tackling this epidemic are already run ragged. And, while this funding is welcome, it is just a short-term fix. Knife crime continues to plague our towns and cities and we still urgently need additional resources to solve this issue in the long run.
“The Government must make a significant investment in the Spending Review to give police the long-term boost they need.
“We know this problem cannot be solved overnight, or by the police alone, but we certainly need to be at the heart of any solution,” he concluded.