Knives on Yorkshire's streets at highest level for nearly a decade

Richard Pepper was stabbed to death outside his home in Hull in June 2015.
Richard Pepper was stabbed to death outside his home in Hull in June 2015.
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More than 22,000 people were caught with knives or dangerous weapons across England and Wales in the last year, according to official figures released today.

In the 12 months to the end of June, 22,306 offences were formally dealt with by the criminal justice system, up from 21,314 on the same period the previous year, figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show.

Pictured from left to right are PC Christian Sewell, campaigner Kayleigh Pepper, Clive Knowles from the British Ironworks Society and PCSO Richard Whelan.

Pictured from left to right are PC Christian Sewell, campaigner Kayleigh Pepper, Clive Knowles from the British Ironworks Society and PCSO Richard Whelan.

This is the highest number on record since 2010 when 22,689 offences were dealt with, but it is not the highest level ever recorded as a year earlier, in the same period in 2009, the figure was 27,225.

The Ministry of Justice figures also give an indication of the efforts to crackdown on knife crime, as in the in the last year over a third (38 per cent or 8,446 offences) of these type of offences resulted in immediate custody.

This compares with just 6,212 offences or 23 per cent in the year ending June 2009. This increase has been driven by adults, for whom there was a 39 per cent increase in offenders receiving immediate custody in the period.

The average length of the custodial sentences received also increased over the same period, from 5.9 months to 8.1 months.

Knife crime has risen across England and Wales.

Knife crime has risen across England and Wales.

Kayleigh Pepper, whose brother Richard Pepper was stabbed to death outside his home in Hull in June 2015, has campaigned tirelessly to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime.

Read more: Yorkshire woman whose brother was stabbed to death campaigning to rid streets of knife crime
Miss Pepper, 32, is working alongside Humberside Police and Hull pastor Mo Timbo as part of the #NoMoreKnives campaign which visits secondary schools across the Humberside Police force area, educating thousands of children.

Responding to the latest figures, she said: "The increase was expected, but what these figures do is make the public recognise that actually just carrying a knife is a criminal offence.

"On a positive note we can look at the breakdown of the figures and see the country is taking responsibility and with projects like ours we can start making a difference.

"Every city across the country is doing something to keep their own streets safe and police forces are supporting initiatives like ours and we have got to keep getting our voices heard and raising the roof for our campaign.

"It saddens me every time we hear of another stabbing because I automatically resonate with that family because I know exactly what they are going through - that pure emotion and heartache. It really is such a difficult time."

Miss Pepper also admits that campaigners and the public can only do so much to raise awareness of the dangers of knives.

She said: "The police need to carry that power and significance so people start looking at them with respect.

Read more: The Sharp Edge: A Yorkshire Post investigation into the devastating impact of knife crime in Yorkshire
"The police need to work with the public to engage and challenge the perception that carrying a knife is not normal."

Yorkshire's largest police force - West Yorkshire Police - had 851 criminals who were either cautioned or sentenced for knife and offensive weapon offences in 2019, compared to 766 in 2018 and 741 in 2017.

A force spokesman said: “We take knife crime very seriously in West Yorkshire. It can cause harm in the communities we serve and we are committed to dedicating resources to prevent it from happening and dealing with it when it does.

“We launched Operation Jemlock in April after receiving some extra funding from the Home Office.

“As a result we have been able to deploy officers working extra shifts patrolling in key areas where we know they can make a difference.

“Thanks to the hard work of these officers we have seen some encouraging early results from the first six months of the operation. From April to September 2019, there has been a 13.4% reduction in offences with knives, compared to the same period last year.

Read more: Tougher sentences won’t bring end to knife crime, we need to make young people feel safe
“Jemlock officers have made over 1200 arrests for a range of serious offences, seized 100 weapons and carried out 1088 stop searches to keep people safer on our streets.

“Our message is that carrying a knife is never the answer. By doing so you are significantly increasing the danger to yourself. We urge young people in particular, to think again. We say to them think of your loved ones as well as yourselves and the anguish that would be caused by getting seriously injured – or worse.

“The consequences of knife crime can be devastating for all those involved."

South Yorkshire Police recorded 509 knife and offensive weapon crimes were offenders were either sentenced or cautioned in 2019, compared to 565 in 2018 and 487 in 2017.

In the Humberside Police force area a total of 352 people were either sentenced or cautioned for the same offence in 2019, a rise from 296 the previous year and 327 in 2017.

North Yorkshire had 235 criminals who were either cautioned or sentenced in 2019, a rise from 195 in 2018 and 205 in 2017.

A North Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “We work hard to take a proactive, preventative approach to knife crime which we believe plays a role in the rising number of offensive weapon offences that are prosecuted. This approach includes tactics such as intelligence-led stop and search, collaborating with local schools and organisations to educate young people about the dangers of carrying a knife and also taking part in national initiatives such as Operation Sceptre, where the public are encouraged to safely hand in any knives or bladed weapons they might have in their possession.”