Data published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for England and Wales last month have exposed the scale of Britain’s knife crime problem, as post-pandemic figures are rapidly rising back up to meet levels seen before 2020. The figures, looking at knife and offensive weapon sentencing statistics up to September 2021, includes figures on age groupings, repeat offences, and locations.
Using the data – which shows knife offences which resulted in a caution or conviction by police force area – it is possible to determine which parts of the UK suffer the highest figures.
In 2021, the police force area with the highest level of knife crime was Cleveland in Yorkshire, with a total of 72 offences for every 100,000 people.
This amounts to a real total of 361 offences until September 2021. This isn’t the first time Cleveland has topped this list – it held the highest figures since 2019, even topping the chart during the worst of the pandemic in 2020, with 59 offences per 100,000.
Comparatively, London had 45 offences per 100,000 people in 2020, and 51 per 100,000 in 2021.
In fact, the capital – often cited as a core problem area for knife crime – only ranked fourth for offences per 100,000 in 2021, and has been steadily dropping out of the top three since 2019.
After Cleveland, Nottinghamshire police force reported the second-highest figures with 62 offences per 100,000 people, making the East Midlands region the second-worst place to live for knife crime.
Third on the list was Liverpool’s county of Merseyside, with 54 offences per 100,000 in 2021.
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On the other end of the spectrum, the figures show Surrey was the safest place in terms of knife crime in 2021, with just 15 instances per 100,000 people.
Second-safest was the Costwolds county of Gloucestershire, with a rate of 20 per 100,000, followed closely by Dyfed-Powys in Wales, with 23 per 100,000.
Elsewhere the data shows the vast majority of all offences are committed by people over the age of 18, with 16,457 offences resulting in a caution or conviction of an adult in 2021.
However, the figures still show a shocking number of children aged 10 to 17 committing these offences, with the number as high as 3,742 in 2021.
Overall, the data shows a total of 20,202 knife or offensive weapon offences were dealt with by police forces in 2021 – up from pandemic lows of 18,296 in 2020, but down from the peak of 22,495 in 2019.
Primarily, however, the data deals with how offenders were sentenced. This includes cautions, conditional discharge, fines, community sentences, suspended sentences and custody.
Here, the figures show that more than four in ten repeat offenders were spared jail time in 2021.
This is despite a “two strikes and you’re out” law – the Criminal Justice and Courts Act of 2015 – designed to ensure repeat offenders aren’t handed lenient sentences and prompt judges to crack down on knife crime.
Former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, who introduced the Bill, said it was designed to “make sure it’s clear that, when making sentencing decisions, mandatory imprisonment should be applied unless there are exceptional circumstances”.
When this law came into effect in 2015, MoJ statistics show 34 percent of repeat offenders were escaping with non-custodial sentences – by 2021, it has climbed to 41 percent.
Mr Rodgers said that “victims are definitely being let down”, too.
He said: “You only have to ask a person who’s ever been a victim of anything, and nine times out of 10 they would say they want a tougher sentence for [the perpetrator] because it’s about the damage they leave behind.
“The sleepless nights, the depression, the injuries. Victims who have to look in the mirror every day and be reminded. The punishment has to reflect the crime.”
Commenting on the latest MoJ data, Sir Mike Penning, a former Conservative policing and justice minister, accused judges of letting down victims.
He said: “Judges and magistrates need to know that Parliament passed the [two strikes] law for a reason.
“That is to protect victims and for victims to know that they are being listened to. Surely it’s the duty of the courts to recognise that.”