Hundreds of knife convictions and cautions for children across West Mercia and Mid Wales

Hundreds of children in West Mercia and Mid Wales have been convicted or cautioned for knife crimes in just over a decade, new figures show.

The Government has pledged to do more to protect young people from knife crime and get weapons off the streets, after knife and offensive weapons convictions among under-18s rose significantly across England and Wales prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministry of Justice figures for West Mercia Police show young people were involved in 459 of the 3,151 cases resulting in cautions or convictions between July 2010 and June 2021 – making up 15 per cent of those punished.

In Dyfed-Powys, they accounted for 148 of the 1,276 cases – 12 per cent of those punished.

Punishments handed to children aged between 10 and 15 accounted for 204 of those cases in West Mercia and 79 in Dyfed-Powys.

And the vast majority of those convicted were first time offenders.

It comes as police officers in Shropshire have delivered their first workshop to young people to educate them about the dangers of carrying a knife.

West Mercia Police teamed up with local organisations to deliver the Steer Clear workshop, an intelligence led project aimed at young people under the age of 18 who are believed to be on the periphery of knife related crime.

Sergeant Chris Haslam, of West Mercia Police, said: “Fortunately serious knife related crime is rare in the county, however we cannot be complacent.

"It’s been a real team effort to put these workshops together with support from numerous agencies all helping make the sessions interactive, interesting and thought provoking.

"We hope that the messages stay with the young people and give them the opportunity to pause, reflect and make the right decision."

In West Mercia, young offenders were sent to prison in 32 of the cases recorded in the last 11 years, while 169 investigations ended with community sentences and 222 led to a caution being issued.

And in the area covered by Dyfed-Powys police, they were sent to prison in five cases in the same timeframe, while 55 investigations ended with community sentences and 81 cautions were handed out.

The true scale of crimes involving children is likely to be higher as the data is limited to the possession of knives or offensive weapons and threats involving such weapons – it does not include assaults, murders or other kinds of weapons offences.

The latest national figures show nearly 38,500 punishments were issued to youngsters for knife and offensive weapon crime since July 2010 – 3,600 in the year to June.

That was up six per cent on the year before – though the previous 12-month period included the first national lockdown and pandemic-related disruption to the criminal justice system.

Of the cautions and convictions in 2020-21, 35 were handed down in West Mercia and 10 in Dyfed-Powys.

The lower crime levels seen during the pandemic followed a steady rise in punishments for knife and offensive weapons offences across England and Wales.

Cautions or convictions involving young people rose from 2,500 in 2012-13 to a peak of 4,250 in 2018-19.

A Government spokesman said it was combining "tough enforcement" and early intervention programmes to get dangerous weapons off the streets and to divert youngsters away from crime.

He said every life lost to knife crime is a tragedy, adding that an additional 20,000 police officers and increased stop and search powers would help to save lives and ensure more dangerous weapons are seized.

The spokesman added: “Knife crime has fallen under this Government since 2019, but we are determined to do more and this requires a joined-up response – particularly to protect our young people."

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