Almost a dozen repeat knife offenders in Bedfordshire spared jail

A charity said victims are left “feeling like they haven't received the justice they deserve”
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Almost a dozen repeat knife offenders in Bedfordshire were spared an immediate jail sentence last year, new figures show.

Nearly four in 10 offenders across England and Wales who were caught with a knife or offensive weapon for at least the second time were not sent to jail.

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Ministry of Justice figures show 40 repeat knife offenders aged over 18 in Bedfordshire went through the criminal justice system in the year ending September 2023. The majority – 37 – were found in possession of a knife, while the remainder were convicted of threatening offences.

A model poses holding a knife. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PAA model poses holding a knife. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA
A model poses holding a knife. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA

Of those, 11 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 per cent were sent to jail immediately – a significant fall from 71 per cent in 2018, three years after a new policy on repeat offenders was launched.

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.

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In the year to September 2018, 29 per cent walked free from jail but this went up to 38 per cent last year. In Bedfordshire, 12 of 57 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.

“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.”

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

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.”