Only nine criminals convicted by Cambridgeshire Police for weapons offences in 2017 were jailed for at least a year

Just nine criminals convicted by Cambridgeshire Police of possessing knives, guns or other weapons were sentenced to at least a year in prison in 2017.

Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 5:23 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:42 am

Ministry of Justice statistics show that 124 people were found guilty in court of weapons possession offences last year. However only 7% were handed prison time of 12 months or more.

In fact more offenders received a community order, 19 in total.

Weapons possession offences include having a gun, knife or bottle of acid in public, and more serious crimes include threatening someone with blades or firearms or taking them to schools.

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Weapons seized by Cambridgeshire Police during a recent knife amnesty

Currently the minimum sentence is a community order and the maximum is four years' imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence. However in June new guidelines will come into place making the minimum sentence six months in jail.

In 2017 just two of those convicted received a sentence of four years or more. If the defendant was sentenced for two separate offences, the data combines their custodial time.

Out of the 198 suspects Cambridgeshire Police brought to court, 63% were found guilty.

Of the total, 55 weapons trials were dealt with at crown court, indicating they are the most serious offences. The rest were seen at magistrates' court where the maximum sentence is six months' imprisonment.

Of those cases held at crown court, 51% were convicted.

Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, a charity which aims to raise awareness about knife crime, said it was "important that we send a message that we are not going soft on offenders".

Ben was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack in 2008 when he was just 16-years-old. His family set up the trust in his honour.

Mr Green continued: "The average custodial sentence for carrying a knife in Scotland is almost twice that of England and Wales. Knife crime is falling in Scotland and rising in England and Wales.

"But it's critically important that we stop people carrying knives in the first place, we cannot police our way out of this.

"Education should be our first port of call and if offenders go on to carry knives there should be strong consequences. It is unclear from these figures whether that is the case."

Mr Green explained that the two strike rule meant that people caught with knives would only face a custodial sentence on the second offence.

"What the public want to see from non-custodial sentences is a low reoffending rate. The public needs to see that young people are not going to continue carrying knives."

Robbery was the crime group which had the lowest conviction rate in 2017 at 36%, with theft trials having the highest rate at 78%.

The overall crown court conviction rate for Cambridgeshire Police was 64.6%, with 774 out of the 1,198 suspects found guilty. That's higher than the England and Wales average of 63.2%.

This was lower than 2016 when 65.1% of people were convicted.

The conviction rate for magistrates' courts was higher at 81.4%. Magistrates' courts deal with less serious cases and do not have jury trials.