Shock at Wigan knife and gun criminals' short sentences

Only one in 20 Wigan knife and gun criminals ends up serving a year or more behind bars, shock new figures reveal.

Monday, 28th May 2018, 9:15 am
Updated Monday, 28th May 2018, 9:36 am
Criminals with knives are still being jailed for six months or less

A victims’ charity has now called for MPs to enforce tougher new weapons laws after the disturbing statistic was uncovered for Greater Manchester.

New guidelines say that from June the minimum sentence for knife behaviour and related disorder will be six months, instead of a community order.

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But supporters of the Ben Kinsella Trust, established in memory of the London teenager who was stabbed to death, say the criminal justice system employs a two-strike rule, meaning only repeat offenders earn stiffer punishments.

Aaron Chapman-Phillips, 24, was caged for four years last week at Bolton Crown Court, after holding up a Leigh travel agent’s with a knife.

But a number of knife-holders have been jailed for six months or fewer by borough magistrates in recent months.

An investigation has discovered that out of the 497 people convicted of knife and gun possession in Greater Manchester eventually received year-long custodial terms or more.

Crown court conviction rates have dipped, with 61.8 per cent of those in the dock found guilty in 2017, slightly less than the 66.3 per cent rate for the previous 12 months.

The magistrates’ court conviction rate for the region was higher at 83.7 per cent.

Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said it was important that a message went out that the government was not “going soft” on offenders.

He added: “The average custodial sentence for carrying a knife in Scotland is almost twice that of England and Wales. Knife crime is falling in Scotland and rising in England and Wales.

“But it’s critically important that we stop people carrying knives in the first place. We cannot police our way out of this.

“Education should be our first port of call and if offenders go on to carry knives there should be strong consequences.

“It is unclear from these figures whether that is the case.

“What the public want to see from non-custodial sentences is a low re-offending rate. The public needs to see that young people are not going to continue carrying knives.”

Knife crime awareness is already being raised locally after Wigan Athletic Community Trust was awarded £2,440, earlier this year, to embark on a series of workshops.

Around 300 people, aged 12 to 19, will be addressed as part of the Knife Crime Community Fund initiative, backed by the Home Office.

Rachel Scott, the trust’s inclusion officer, said: “The project encourages young people to consider the impact and challenges that knife crime can have on their local communities and the wider society, including how to deal with conflict and staying safe.”