THERE were more sentences handed out for knife and offensive weapons crime in Merseyside last year, new figures show.
Anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust said further investment in the court system is needed to help it keep up with rising knife crime across the England and Wales.
Ministry of Justice figures show 162 offenders in Merseyside were given an immediate sentence in the year to September – accounting for 33% of knife crime offenders who went through the criminal justice system.
This was up on the proportion of offenders handed an immediate sentence in 2020-21 (32%), but below the proportion two years prior (38%).
Overall, about 2% of the 498 offenders in Merseyside who went through the criminal justice system were cautioned, 21% were given community sentences and 33% were suspended sentences.
Across England and Wales…
Across England and Wales, nearly 19,400 knife and offensive weapon offences were formally dealt with – a decrease of 5% since the year ending September 2021.
This is despite separate figures showing an 11% increase in knife crime over the course of the same period.
Patrick Green, Ben Kinsella Trust chief executive, said the figures show a difference between recorded knife crime and the number of offences that finally make it into court.
He said: "They also show that there is now a higher likelihood that a knife crime offender will be served with a suspended sentence rather than go to jail for their crime.
"Sanctions imposed by the courts are failing to change the behaviour of habitual offenders, and the courts system needs more investment to keep pace with increasing knife crime figures.
"But we cannot rely solely on the criminal justice system to resolve this issue on its own. We must widen our focus to stop knife crime at source by investing more in our young people and the services that support and divert them away from crime."
On a national level, the figures showed the average length of sentences for possession of a knife or offensive weapon increased slightly from 7.4 months in 2020-21 to 7.6 months last year.
'More criminals caught carrying a knife are being sent to jail for longer'
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "More criminals caught carrying a knife are being sent to jail for longer than they were a decade ago thanks to the decisive action of this Government to protect the public and make our streets safer.
"Our recent changes to sentencing mean repeat knife offenders are now more likely to face jail and the extra 20,000 police officers we are recruiting will help bring more criminals to justice.”
The data shows 70% of offenders in Merseyside last year had no previous convictions or cautions, 19% had one, 6% had two and 5% had three or more.