Hundreds of knife convictions and cautions for Hertfordshire children

The Ben Kinsella Trust called for more to be done to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 8:27 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 8:28 am

Hundreds of Hertfordshire children were convicted or cautioned for knife crimes in just over a decade, figures show.

The Government has pledged to do more to protect young people from knife crime and get weapons off the streets, after knife and offensive weapons convictions among under-18s rose significantly across England and Wales prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministry of Justice figures for Hertfordshire Constabulary show young people were involved in 670 of the 3,017 cases resulting in cautions or convictions between July 2010 and June 2021 – making up 22 per cent of those punished.

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And 304 of those punishments were handed to children aged between just 10 and 15.

The true scale of crimes involving children is likely to be higher as the data is limited to the possession of knives or offensive weapons and threats involving such weapons – it does not include assaults, murders or other kinds of weapons offences.

Of the youngsters convicted in Hertfordshire, most (88 per cent) were first time offenders but 82 had at least one previous conviction, and nine had three or more.

Young offenders were sent to prison in 61 of the cases recorded in the last 11 years, while 355 investigations ended with community sentences and 193 led to a caution being issued.

The Ben Kinsella Trust, established in memory of a teen knifed to death at the age of 16, called for more to be done to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime.

The charity's CEO, Patrick Green, said the figures illustrated the negative impact knife crime was having on young lives, adding "no child was born carrying a knife".

He said: "We should not forget that young people are also increasingly likely to be victims."

Detective Chief Inspector, Graeme Walsingham from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Crime Reduction and Community Safety team, said: “Knife possession has increased in Hertfordshire over the past year, however, in comparison to other parts of the country knife related crime remain relatively low in the county.

“Hertfordshire Constabulary, in partnership with other local organisations, has developed a countywide Serious Violence Strategy in response to the issue of youth related knife crime.

"This has included research into what drives young people into making these decisions and to form a proactive problem solving approach that tackles these issues.

"As a result of this work we have been focussing on preventing these things happening at a much earlier stage, by ensuring that our young people are given the information, guidance and support they need to make educated choices and avoid being sucked into these kinds of crimes.

“Over the last few years we have been running initiatives around the county, working with schools and giving talks to students.

"We have also set up a dedicated Gangs and Schools team to work with our young people, who may be at risk of becoming involved in crime, to encourage them to make positive choices.

"The team have been running our #LivesnotKnives campaign, an initiative working with a range of different organisations, including local sports clubs, musicians and charities to encourage young people to engage in sports and other positive activities.

"They also run regular online events with invited guests, who share their real experience of gangs and violent crime, often taking questions and giving true accounts of the consequences of becoming involved in this type of crime.

"The next such event will take place on 14 December on Lives Not Knives - Hertfordshire Constabulary CYP Gangs and Schools Team - YouTube.

“Regular national weeks of action on knife crime also provide a great opportunity to get knives off the streets, in the most recent amnesty more than 500 knives were handed in.

"During the week of action we also carried out knife detection operations, weapon sweeps in public areas and test purchasing operations at knife retailers.

“Young people or who are concerned about knife crime can get confidential advice by visiting www.fearless.org.”

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That was up 6 per cent on the year before – though the previous 12-month period included the first national lockdown and pandemic-related disruption to the criminal justice system.

Of the cautions and convictions in 2020-21, 56 were handed down in Hertfordshire.

The lower crime levels seen during the pandemic followed a steady rise in punishments for knife and offensive weapons offences across England and Wales.

Cautions or convictions involving young people rose from 2,500 in 2012-13 to a peak of 4,250 in 2018-19.

A Government spokesman said it was combining "tough enforcement" and early intervention programmes to get dangerous weapons off the streets and to divert youngsters away from crime.

He said every life lost to knife crime is a tragedy, adding that an additional 20,000 police officers and increased stop and search powers would help to save lives and ensure more dangerous weapons are seized.

The spokesman added: “Knife crime has fallen under this Government since 2019, but we are determined to do more and this requires a joined-up response – particularly to protect our young people."