Dozens of repeat knife criminals in Hampshire spared jail as Portsmouth sees a flurry of stabbings
DOZENS of adult criminals caught carrying knives for at least a second time in Hampshire were spared an immediate prison sentence last year, figures reveal.
Ministry of Justice data shows there were 88 cases where an offender was convicted or cautioned again over possession of a knife or offensive weapon in Hampshire in the year ending in March.
Of those cases, 53 saw the culprit given an immediate jail sentence, while 19 resulted in a suspended sentence, 13 in a community order and one in a caution.
It meant in 33 cases the repeat offender was not sent straight to prison, despite the law outlining that adults already convicted of the crime should face a minimum six-month jail term under the ‘two strikes and out’ system brought in six years ago.
The Ministry of Justice said the rate of immediate prison sentences had been impacted by the pandemic, with a higher number of cases not reaching sentencing on time compared to previous years.
It also said there had been an increase in suspended sentences, possibly down to cases of coronavirus in the prison system.
But anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust said the criminal justice system must regard carrying weapons with the ‘severity that it deserves’.
Chief executive Patrick Green said: ‘We are committed to preventative and targeted approaches to put an end to knife crime, but for those who consistently reoffend we rely on the criminal justice system to play a major role in our ongoing struggle.
‘The figures raise concern about the criminal justice system's effectiveness at reducing weapon carriers on our streets.
‘The leniency of the sentencing suggests an inappropriately weak response.’
Although the MoJ warns any repeat knife offender should expect an immediate prison sentence, there is currently no minimum sentence for someone caught carrying a knife or offensive weapon for the first time.
In total, 405 cases of knife possession – including offenders aged under 18 – led to convictions and cautions in Hampshire in 2020-21, down from 484 the year before.
The MoJ insisted sentencing remained the responsibility of independent judges, with a spokesman adding: ‘Those caught carrying a knife are more likely to be sent to jail and for longer than they were a decade ago.
‘We are also recruiting 20,000 extra police officers, making it easier to use stop and search and ensuring the most serious offenders spend more time behind bars to protect the public.’