Only one in 20 criminals convicted in Northamptonshire for weapons offences is jailed for at least a year, report reveals

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Just one in every 20 criminals convicted in Northamptonshire Police for possessing knives, guns or other weapons are sentenced to at least a year in prison.

Ministry of Justice statistics show that 11 out of the 180 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, 58 in total.

Out of the 268 suspects Northamptonshire Police brought to court, 67 percent were either found guilty or pleaded 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 three 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.

Of the total, 68 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, 56% 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."

Sexual offences was the crime group which had the lowest conviction rate in 2017 at 36%, with theft trials having the highest rate at 73%.

The overall Crown Court conviction rate in Norhtamptonshire was 63.4%, with 634 out of the 1,000 suspects found guilty. That's roughly the same as the England and Wales average of 63.2%.

This was lower than 2016 when 67.7% of people were convicted.

The conviction rate for magistrates' courts was higher at 81.8%. Magistrates' courts deal with less serious cases and do not have jury trials.

Source data