One in five of knife crim­i­nals are chil­dren

Middleton Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL BRIT­TON

AFIFTH of crim­i­nals con­victed or cau­tioned for knife of­fences in Greater Manch­ester are chil­dren, new anal­y­sis re­veals.

Min­istry of Jus­tice data shows that Greater Manch­ester Po­lice pros­e­cuted 869 peo­ple in the 12 months to June, ei­ther for pos­ses­sion of a knife as a weapon or threat­en­ing some­one with one.

Of those 170, or 20 per cent, were aged be­tween 10 and 17.

That num­ber has in­creased by 55pc since 2015, when 110 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, 204, or 24pc, had at least one pre­vi­ous cau­tion or con­vic­tion for car­ry­ing a knife, and 26 of the crim­i­nals had three or more past of­fences.

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

Mr Green con­tin­ued: “I’m con­fi­dent that a pub­lic health ap­proach will 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.”

Over­all 14pc more peo­ple were suc­cess­fully pros­e­cuted by Greater Manch­ester Po­lice with knife of­fences in 201718, com­pared with the pre­vi­ous 12 months. Of those 816 were for pos­ses­sion of a knife, and 59 for mak­ing threats with a knife.

A to­tal of 324 of­fend­ers were sent to prison, 197 were given com­mu­nity or­ders and 95 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.”

Min­istry of Jus­tice data re­vealed one-in-five of crim­i­nals con­victed or cau­tioned for knife of­fences were chil­dren

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