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Just a quarter of criminals caught with a knife are jailed despite plans for stronger sentencingKnife thugs less likely to be locked up on the spot than a year agoBefore election, Tories pledged to jail anyone caught with a knife in publicBut 25 per cent of 3,376 adult offenders jailed on the spot in last 12 months
a total of 3,376 adult offenders were sentenced for possession of a knife or other offensive weapon.
Of those 23 per cent – some 865 offenders – were handed community service by the courts – leaving them free to walk the streets.
Eighteen per cent were simply cautioned – a total of 683 criminals.
Some 15 per cent – 579 individuals – were given a suspended sentence, meaning they would be locked up only if they committed a further crime.
Plans: The Tories' pledge, before the election, to jail anyone caught with a knife in public was ditched by then Justice Secretary Ken Clarke after he was advised it would put up to 8,000 more offenders behind bars
One in 20 walked away with just a fine, while 149 criminals were given a ‘discharged’ offence – little more than a slap on the wrist.
That left one in four, a total of 949 individuals, who were given an immediate custodial sentence.
That knife thugs are less likely to be jailed on the spot will raise concerns about sentencing.
Review: Justice Minister Damian Green said the Government has been conducting a review with the police on the use of cautions
Before the election, the Tories pledged to jail anyone caught with a knife in public.
But the pledge was ditched by then Justice Secretary Ken Clarke after he was advised that it would put up to 8,000 more offenders behind bars at any one time.
Instead ministers introduced a new offence of aggravated knife carrying, which they said would lead to more mandatory knife sentences.
The crime – which is committed by anyone using a knife to ‘threaten or endanger others' – became law in December.
Since 2007 the proportion of possession offences leading to immediate custodial sentences has risen, in particular during 2008 when sentencing guidelines were toughened up.
The average jail term for possessing a knife was seven and a half months, the figures showed – around three months longer than it was at the end of 2007.
Overall the number of cautions or convictions for carrying a knife is down nearly a fifth since 2011. It could mean fewer criminals are carrying the weapons or simply that the police are less likely to catch them.
Justice Minister Damian Green said: 'Overall, knife crime has fallen but this is not enough. That is why we have just introduced a new offence of using a knife to threaten or endanger others which carries a mandatory custodial sentence.
'In conjunction with police, the Government is conducting a review of the use of cautions to make sure they are being used appropriately.'