More than a third of repeat knife offenders are spared jail in police force that serves Milton Keynes

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The figure has risen over the past few years

More than a third of repeat knife offenders in Thames Valley Police force area were spared jail last year, research shows.

New figures show across England and Wales nearly four in 10 people who were caught with a knife or offensive weapon for at least the second time were not sent to jail.

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The Ben Kinsella Trust, which campaigns against knife crime, said victims are left “feeling like they haven't received the justice they deserve”.

More than a third of repeat knife crime offenders are being spared jailMore than a third of repeat knife crime offenders are being spared jail
More than a third of repeat knife crime offenders are being spared jail

Ministry of Justice figures show 132 repeat knife offenders aged over 18 in Thames Valley went through the criminal justice system in the year ending September 2023. The majority – 129 – were found in possession of a knife, while the remainder were convicted of threatening offences.

Of those, 38% avoided immediate custody and were only cautioned or given a community or a suspended sentence instead. Police force level figures could include both previous possession and threatening offences.

Nationally, 4,127 adults were found guilty of a repeat possession offence. Of them, 62% were sent to jail immediately – a significant fall from 71% in 2018, three years after a new policy on repeat offenders was launched.

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In 2015, the ‘two-strike’ rule was introduced, which promised adults convicted of carrying knives would face an automatic six-month prison sentence after their second conviction.

In the year to September 2018, 29% walked free from jail but this went up to 38% last year.

In Thames Valley, 32 of 111 repeat criminals were spared jail six years ago – a smaller proportion than in 2023.

Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said: “The Government’s ‘two-strike’ policy was presented as an important intervention in the fight against knife crime, promising to deter potential offenders and deliver justice for victims.

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“Yet, the data paints a disturbing picture where four out of 10 repeat offenders are walking free. The Ben Kinsella Trust emphasises that this inconsistency between policy and practice undermines the very purpose of the two-strike rule.

“It fails to deliver a strong deterrent effect and leaves victims feeling like they haven't received the justice they deserve.”

The policy also applied to young offenders, with those aged 16 and 17 said to face a minimum four-month detention and training order.

Across England and Wales, there were 273 young offenders, 101 of whom were sentenced to an immediate custody.

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A government spokesperson said: “While sentencing is for independent courts, our latest figures show more knife-carrying criminals are being sent to jail and for longer than a decade ago.”

In July 2022 police launched Operation Deter to combat knife crime in Milton Keynes after the city was rocked by four fatal stabbing committed over just 13 weeks.

The aim is to disrupt all aspects of knife crime, from prosecution, intervention and prevention.

The force force called for to use harsher and prompter punishments to deter young people from carrying knives and aimed to remove a knife-carrying culture which has infested Milton Keynes.

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Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley Matthew Barber said: “The concept is very simple. Those who carry knives in public, and thereby endanger others, should feel the swift and tough consequences of their actions.