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REVEALED: Just one in nine criminals with weapons jailed for a year or more

By Pete Madeley | Crime | Published:

Criminals in the West Midlands convicted for weapons possession were more likely to be given a community order than a prison sentence of more than a year, new figures show.

According to the Ministry of Justice, 91 out of the 799 of people convicted for possession of guns or knives across the region last year were handed jail time of 12 months or more.

While this represents only 11 per cent of those convicted, over the same period 235 offenders (30 per cent) were given community orders.

Just 35 criminals caught with weapons (four per cent) were jailed for four years or more.

The E&S has launched a campaign calling for stiffer sentences for those caught in possession of a knife in the wake of a spike in violent crime across the region.

Weapons possession offences include having a gun, knife or bottle of acid in public, and more serious crimes include threatening someone with a blade or a firearm, or taking weapons into schools.

Currently the minimum sentence is a community order and the maximum is four years' imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.

However, next month new guidelines will come into force making the minimum sentence six months behind bars.

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'.

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"The average custodial sentence for carrying a knife in Scotland is almost twice that of England and Wales," he added. "Knife crime is falling in Scotland and rising in England and Wales.

"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."

The figures also show that of the 1,248 suspects West Midlands Police brought to court, 64 per cent were found guilty.

Of the total, 320 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.

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Of the crown court cases, 55 per cent were convicted. According to Home Office figures, the West Midlands has the biggest increase in knife crime outside London, with the number of crimes involving a knife or sharp instrument going up by 1,000 a year since 2014.

In the 12 months to September 2017 violent crime rose by 11 per cent across the region.

Under the current law people found with weapons only receive a mandatory prison sentence if it is their second offence.

WMP has been approached for a comment. Visit change.org to sign the E&S petition.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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