Almost a fifth of knife criminals in West Yorkshire are children

Knives
Knives

Almost a fifth of criminals convicted or cautioned for knife offences in West Yorkshire are children, new analysis reveals.

Ministry of Justice data shows that West Yorkshire Police prosecuted 678 people in the 12 months to June, either for possession of a knife as a weapon or threatening someone with one.

Of those 129, or 19 per cent, were aged between 10 and 17.

That number has increased by 32 per cent since 2015, when 98 children were charged.

Patrick Green, chief executive of anti-knife charity the Ben Kinsella Trust, said the figures were “deeply depressing” and showed enforcement cannot prevent knife crime on its own.

“This indicates we cannot rely solely on enforcement if we are going to tackle the small but significant number of habitual reoffenders.

“These are people who are stuck in a spiral of violent crime.”

Mr Green said taking a public health approach, which is beginning to be adopted in some parts of the country, could start to tackle the “underlying causes of knife crime”.

Of the total number of knife offenders, 149, or 22 per cent, had at least one previous caution or conviction for carrying a knife, and 21 of the criminals had three or more past offences.

Across England and Wales the number of reoffenders increased by 35 per cent over the last three years.

Mr Green continued: “I’m confident that a public health approach work, it will stop the next youngsters getting caught in the cycle of violent crime.

“It won’t work immediately, but given time, as we’ve seen in Glasgow and US cities, if it’s properly funded it can be successful.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said preventing youngsters from carrying knives requires help through education and the community, as well as the police.

A spokesman explained: “The rise in the number of children and young people who are being charged is a concern and preventing young people from carrying knives is not something that police forces can do alone - it requires a whole system approach.

“We are working with schools, charities and community schemes to educate young people and explain why carrying a knife is never the right choice.

“This early intervention plays a vitally important role in stopping young people from turning to a life of crime.”

Overall 1 per cent fewer people were successfully prosecuted by West Yorkshire Police with knife offences in 2017-18, compared with the previous 12 months.

Of those 631 were for possession of a knife, and 52 for making threats with a knife.

A total of 251 offenders were sent to prison, 151 were given community orders and 89 received a caution.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman explained that the proportion of knife offences resulting in a caution across England and Wales was at its lowest level ever.

She said: “Through the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy we are working to prevent young people from ever picking up a knife in the first place and our latest figures show we are catching and prosecuting more of those carrying a blade, and sending them to prison for longer.

“This year over a third of all knife and offensive weapon offences resulted in time behind bars.”