More than a third of knife criminals in Hertfordshire are reoffenders

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

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 4:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th December 2020, 4:44 pm

More than a third of adult criminals caught carrying a blade in Hertfordshire 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 165 convictions and cautions for knife possession in the 12 months up to September.

The photo has been used for illustration purposes

In 61 cases, or 37%, the offender had committed at least one previous offence of carrying a knife, while in nine cases there were three or more past offences.

Immediate prison sentences were given in 35 of the repeat offences while 12 were dealt with by suspended jail sentences and four by community orders.

For 10 of the offences the outcome was not specified in the data.

Across England and Wales, 12,458 convictions and cautions were given to adult offenders for knife possession in the 12 months up to September.

Out of those, around a third were repeat offenders.

Detective Chief Inspector Graeme Walsingham, from Safeguarding Partnerships and Policies said: “Dealing with habitual knife carriers and repeat offenders is a key part of Hertfordshire’s Serious Violence Strategy.

“The Constabulary uses intelligence to direct its stop and search powers towards individuals we know are likely to be carrying knives, which can lead to more arrests for knife related offences.

"These individuals are also identified by our investigators and targeted by our local policing and special operation teams dealing with violent crime when carrying out disruption activities.

“Our officers take a problem solving approach and focus on individuals, addresses and areas associated with violent crime.

"As part of our longer term strategy we have invested in prevention of and diversion from this type of crime and the associated violence, and our Gangs and Schools team work within schools and with children who are at risk of becoming involved in knife and violent crime, providing early intervention, learning and messaging for the young people and their families to deter repeat offending or escalation of offending.

“The processes of dealing with offenders related to violent crime is constantly under review and we are looking to develop an even more targeted approach to addressing the issues in the county."

Patrick Green, chief executive of anti-knife charity the Ben Kinsella Trust, said: “I remain worried about the continuing high levels of repeat offending.

“All too often we see the criminal justice system having little or no effect on habitual knife carriers.

“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% from the same period last year.

In Hertfordshire the number fell 27%.

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.

Justice Minister Chris Philp said: “This Government is determined to make our streets safer and those caught carrying a knife should expect to face time behind bars.

“We are doing more to build back confidence in the justice system recruiting 20,000 extra police officers, making it easier to use stop and search and ensuring the most serious offenders spend longer in prison.”