Recent data from the Ministry of Justice reveals that jail time for offenders is not following suit, as knife crime approaches pre-pandemic levels. Is this due to a failing on the part of the Judiciary, or is there something else at work? Hannah Costley, a solicitor in our Crime and Regulatory Department, looks into this and how the statistics might reflect a more sustainable change.
Knife crime during lockdown
The knife crime rate in England and Wales has decreased by half from March to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Justice. This significant drop was probably due to the national lockdown. Because businesses, public areas, and people were ordered to stay indoors. There was less opportunity for knife violence.
Post-lockdown and knife crime
After the lockdown, knife crime is rapidly resuming to pre-pandemic levels. In 2020, there were a total of 18,296 crimes, and in 2021 this increased to 20,202 offenses.
Despite this dramatic rise, Ministry of Justice statistics indicate that more than four in ten repeat offenders are not ending up behind bars. Suspended sentences, fines, community service, cautions and conditional discharges are all more common among offenders.
This new information is remarkable, given the passage of the two-strikes legislation in 2015. This legislation aims to give offenders caught twice with a knife a minimum of six months imprisonment and a maximum of four years in jail.
Why are knife crime offenders not receiving jail time?
Some may claim that because offenders are not sentenced to jail time, it is an indication of the court failing since former Conservative Policing and Justice Minister, Sir Mike Penning says, “It’s terrible for both sides [the police and the public]. They’re doing their duty by bringing these people before the court but the judiciary isn’t performing.”
“Judges and Magistrates must be aware that the [two strikes] legislation was enacted for a reason. That is to safeguard victims and give them confidence in the system.”
However, Hannah Costley, a Solicitor in our Crime and Regulatory Team, points out that a reduction in jail time may be considered a positive development and an indication of the shift toward more sustainable intervention.
“I commend and encourage the decrease in offenders being sentenced to immediate custody, as Rehabilitation and Education are a lot more effective at preventing people from committing this sort of crime again. While imprisonment may shock defendants and teach them the consequences of their actions, Some individuals could be susceptible to being groomed by experienced criminals while in jail, and thus commit more serious crimes after they’ve served their terms and gotten out.”
Hannah states, “Interventions from the Youth Offending Team should be encouraged for youth offenders. Funds and resources should be invested in developing Courses and Education tools to prevent reoffending.”