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UK Judges Grant Knife Offenders Impunity

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TEHRAN, June 4 (ICANA) – The British justice system is letting 80 percent of criminals caught with a knife go free despite a law envisaging jail terms of at least 12 weeks for the offense.
Saturday, June 04, 2011 2:32:06 PM
UK Judges Grant Knife Offenders Impunity

In spite of growing cases of fatal knife attacks on citizens, British judges are being too lenient to offenders charged with illegal possession of a blade or sharp weapon, and four out of five are freed with a caution warning, said a report by the Ministry of Justice.

This comes as custody rates for such offenses have hit a three-year low with long-term imprisonments also dropping sharply.

In 2008, UK courts were instructed to consider 12 weeks as the minimum jail term for illegal possession of sharp weapons that could be increased or decreased based on defined factors.

Based on the figures, 5,228 people were convicted of illegal possession of a knife in the first three months of this year but only 1,014 offenders (19 percent) were given jail terms.

The percentage is the lowest since mid-2008, standing even lower than the same period last year where 23 percent of the offenders received prison terms.

The figures also show judges favored community penalties as the number of offenders facing non-custodial convictions rose from 31 percent last year to 33 percent, with one out of five released only getting a caution.

Only 32 percent of those who did get a jail term were sentenced to more than six months in prison, down from 34 percent in the first three months of 2010.

“Not everyone who carries a knife should be sent to prison but we need young people to reject the knife-carrying culture and stronger sanctions are part of sending them that clear signal,” said Blair Gibbs, head of crime and justice at the Policy Exchange think-tank.

"A high starting point for sentencing of knife offences is a clear expression of how seriously the public and parliament view this crime, so it is disturbing that courts are still only imprisoning one in five offenders for any length of time,” Gibbs added.

He also described the current trend of offenders managing to “avoid prison” through judges' leniency as “exactly the wrong message for the courts to be sending out.”

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