Knife crime in England and Wales has risen for the first time in four years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The latest police crime figures reveal that the number of physical assaults involving a knife have risen by 13% to a total of 26,370 reported offences – up from 25,974 the previous year – meaning that compensation for stabbing injuries are likely to rise.
‘Two Strikes and You’re Out’ for Possession of a Knife
The statistics come ahead of tougher penalties that will mean any adult in England and Wales convicted more than once of being in possession of a knife or blade faces up to four years in prison. This new “two strikes and you’re out rule” has been introduced by the government in an effort to help reduce violent crime and thereby reduce the number of criminal injury claims. Under the new law, an estimated 1,000 extra offenders are expected to be jailed each year.
Young offenders, aged 16 and 17, who are found guilty of “aggravated” knife offences will face a mandatory four-month minimum prison sentence under the new rules. Those convicted of using a knife or offensive weapon to threaten and endanger will be given a four-month detention and training order. Adults are to face an automatic six-month sentence for the same offence.
Rise in Knife Crime ‘Genuine’
John Flatley, head of crime statistics at the ONS, believes the rise in knife crime was genuine and unlikely to be purely down to a change in how crime statistics are recorded. He said: “We have seen year-on-year reductions over the last four or five years. This year it has turned slightly. It is a reversal of what we have seen in recent years.”
The increase in knife crime is a major contributing factor to the overall 3% increase in the police recorded crime figures in the year ending March 2015. The ONS said this rise to 3.8m offences was due to a massive 23% increase in offences involving violence against the person, although it believes this increase is due to changes in recording practices rather than a real and tangible increase in violent crime.
The ONS also said the overall 2% rise in knife crime recorded by the police glossed over more significant increases to individual knife crimes, with a 13% increase in assaults involving a knife, and a 10% rise in knife possession offences. However, robberies at knifepoint fell by 14%.
Increase in Rape and Sexual Assault
The official police recorded crime figures also show a startling 37% increase in rape and sexual assaults, many of which are carried out with the aid of a knife or similar weapon. The total number of rapes reported to the police was 29,265 – the highest level of violent sexual crimes reported since new recording standards were first introduced 12 years ago. However, the ONS believes that this surge is due to a greater willingness of victims to come forward and report such assaults. This assertion is backed up by the official crime survey, which showed no significant change in the proportion of adults who reported being a victim of a sexual assault last year.
Stop-and-Search Not Being Used Effectively
Prior to the latest figures released by the ONS, knife crime has been falling in England and Wales since a huge and concerted police effort in 10 areas after a record rise in knife crime in 2008. That long-term operation included a lot of intelligence-led stop-and-search operations, with police officers asking communities to identify gangs and areas known for high knife use. But ever since the Home Secretary told the police to rethink how they were using it in light of negative publicity, stop-and-search tactics have become less effective.
Rise in Knife Crime a ‘Worrying Development’
Kamila Jaskula, personal injury lawyer at Blackwater Law Solicitors in Essex, said: “Victims of violent crime involving a knife can be left with truly life-changing stab wounds and injuries. Of course, in the worst knife attacks, victims can die from their injuries. It is concerning to see such a rise in these statistics.
“We work hard to get victims of such crimes compensation for stab wounds, via the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, so they can move forward with their lives. However, rarely will the amount of compensation awarded be enough to truly compensate the victim for what they have been through.”
Mark Castle, chief executive of Victim Support, said: “As a charity which has supported thousands of victims of knife crimes we know how devastating these types of offences can be, particularly for young people and their families.
“After years of success in driving knife crime down, this rise is a worrying development and efforts to educate people about the dangers of carrying knives must be stepped up.”
Irene Curtis, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said the rise in knife crime demonstrated a clear need for a change in policing strategy by the government. The Police Superintendents’ Association believes the increase in knife crime and sexual assaults is partly due to the fact that there are 17,000 fewer officers than five years ago. And with further budget cuts on the way, it may be that that instances of violent crime will continue to rise.