Nearly half charged with London knife deaths were previous blade offenders

13 January 2020, 04:58 | Updated: 13 January 2020, 05:35

Nearly half of those charged with London knife killings over the past three years had previously committed an offence involving a blade, new figures suggest.

A total of 379 suspects were charged with knife crime homicides by Scotland Yard between the start of November 2016 and the end of October 2019.

Some 173 of those charged in that period (46%), had previously committed a knife offence, according to data released by the force.

However the proportion of previous offenders charged with knife killings fell from 71% between 1 November 2016 and 31 October 2017 to 37% over the same period in 2018/2019.

Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "We need to understand why those involved, including children and young people, carry knives.

"Often it's because they are facing a poverty of hope - a future with no qualifications, no job prospects, and no role models, making them vulnerable to criminal gangs who coerce them to carry knives and deliver drugs."

Mr Khan added that the government urgently needs to work with charities, education, health, youth workers, the criminal justice system and local communities "to find long-term solutions to break the circle of violence".

The new figures come after 149 homicides were recorded in the capital last year up from 133 the previous year, despite a drop nationally.

In a bid to bring re-offending rates down, Conservative London Assembly member Tony Devenish called for changes to the criminal justice system.

He said: "Our prison system needs to both rehabilitate and punish knife crime offenders, which is why the new government is entirely right to reform education in prisons and introduce tougher sentences.

"After all, some of these murders wouldn't have been committed had the perpetrator already been behind bars."

Mr Devenish said it is "incumbent" on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to "drop his half-hearted approach to combating violent crime and start doing all he can to make London safe".

A spokesman for Mr Khan said: "Tackling knife and violent crime is Sadiq's number-one priority but it has been made much harder by a decade of austerity.

"Cuts to youth services and the chronic under-funding of police, prisons and rehabilitation services have contributed to violence increasing across the country. It is high time the government realised that you can't keep the public safe on the cheap."

During the general election campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to get tough on knife crime.

He suggested the Conservatives would bring offenders to court more quickly, "within days not weeks".

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Ministry of Justice figures show 22,306 knife or dangerous weapon offences were formally dealt with by the criminal justice system in England and Wales in the year to the end of June 2019.

It also revealed that some 38% of the offences (8,446) resulted in an immediate custodial sentence, compared with 23% for the same period of time from 5.9 months to 8.1 months.