Knives on our streets are a social scourge. Unlawful possession of a knife or offensive weapon is already a serious criminal offence (which carries a maximum 4 year custodial sentence). We are building on that to send a clear and unequivocal message that those who use a knife or offensive weapon to threaten another person are behaving in a wholly unacceptable manner and can expect an automatic custodial sentence.
This Government introduced the offences of threatening with a knife or offensive weapon in public or in a school. And last year, the Government made changes to the Simple Cautions Guidance issued to police to restrict the use of cautions for certain offences, including knife possession, in all but exceptional circumstances. The Ministry of Justice is also legislating on these changes within the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, to make it absolutely clear that cautions should no longer be used for serious offences such as those involving a knife or offensive weapon.
Within the sentencing framework, it is for judges and magistrates to decide the appropriate sentence in individual cases taking account of the harm the offence caused and the culpability of the offender. Under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, there is an obligation on courts, when sentencing for offences, to follow the guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council, unless it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.
The Ministry of Justice does not hold information disaggregating crimes committed using a knife, as opposed to violent offences committed via other means. However, detailed figures relating to knife and offensive weapon possession are published on a quarterly basis, the latest version of which is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/knife-possession-sentencing-quarterly-brief-july-to-september-2014