Just one in 12 Nottinghamshire criminals jailed for weapons offences
Only a fraction of those convicted for possessing knives, guns or other weapons in Nottinghamshire are sentenced to at least a year in prison.
Ministry of Justice statistics show that 26 out of the 300 people convicted for weapons possession offences last year were handed prison time of 12 months or more.
In fact more offenders received a community order, 63 in total.
Out of the 448 suspects Nottinghamshire Police brought to court, 67 per cent were found guilty.
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.
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 custody.
In 2017 just 13 of those convicted received a sentence of four years or more.
Of the total, 107 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, 59 per cent 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 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.”
Sexual offences was the crime group which had the lowest conviction rate in 2017 at 34 per cent, with theft trials having the highest rate at 79 per cent.
The overall crown court conviction rate for Nottinghamshire Police was 64.2 per cent, with 1,310 out of the 2,039 suspects found guilty.
That is higher than the England and Wales average of 63.2 per cent.
This was lower than 2016 when 69.1 per cent of people were convicted.
The conviction rate for magistrates’ courts was higher at 83.7 per cent. Magistrates’ courts deal with less serious cases and do not have jury trials.
Knife crime strategy manager Detective Superintendent Simon Firth said: “We are working hard with all our criminal justice partners to ensure a fair but robust approach to this issue. If you are found with a knife the police will be looking to charge and put the offender before the court. It is up to the relevant court to determine the appropriate sentence.
“We have welcomed the new sentencing guidelines and echo the comments of Patrick Green from the Ben Kinsella Trust who recently spoke at the Police and Crime Commissioner’s knife crime conference.
“We all have a part to play, especially parents and other family members. The simple message is that if you don’t carry a knife then you can’t use a knife to hurt someone with all the disastrous consequences that will bring to both the victim and the perpetrator.”
Paddy Tipping, Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire, said: “We have been working with local MPs to press for tougher mandatory sentences for those carrying knives.”