Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Knife hospital admissions down 8%

Jack Straw on knife crime figures

The number of people being admitted to hospitals in England as a result of knife injuries fell by 8% in 2008, National Health Service figures show.

Numbers fell from 5,350 in 2007 to 4,899 last year.

The figures also reveal that compared with the previous year, there was a 14% fall in the number of teenagers admitted to hospital with stab wounds.

Meanwhile, figures from the Ministry of Justice suggest that more people are being jailed for possession of knives.

Comparing the last quarters of 2007 and 2008, sentences have gone up by 23%.

KNIFE INJURIES IN FIGURES
There were 4,899 admissions for "assault by sharp object" from December 2007 to November 2008 - the latest figures
That figure is down 8.43% from last year, with 5,350 admissions recorded between December 2006 and November 2007
Admissions of teenagers (aged 13-19) fell from 1,159 to 995 - a drop of 14.2%
Custodial sentences were issued to 1,386 of the 6,704 people arrested for the possession of a knife or offensive weapon in the last three months of 2008
Source: NHS/Ministry of Justice
However, of those who were caught with offensive weapons, including knives, only a fifth were given immediate jail sentences but it is still up from 17% to 21%.

The NHS figures, based on admissions due to assault by sharp objects, including knives, show the drop in knife crime was much less than the government had originally suggested at the end of the last year.

Statistics row

In December, when the government partially released these figures, it was accused of "cherry-picking" and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had to apologise.

The information released had suggested that admissions for knife wounds had fallen by 27% in 10 areas between July and September 2008, even though statisticians had warned that they were "potentially inaccurate".

There has been a fall of 10% in the 10 areas specifically targeted by the government, under the Tackling Knives Action Programme set up in October 2008, and 5% elsewhere, according to the NHS's latest research.

Knife crime graphic

The number of possession charges for knives or offensive weapons was broadly the same, whether in the government-targeted areas or not.

The Ministry of Justice figures for England and Wales show that, on average, there was a 40% increase in the number of prisoners serving a sentence for possession of an offensive weapon.

These figures underline our determination to tackle the scourge of knife crime
Justice Secretary Jack Straw

Of these offences, 21% resulted in immediate custody, compared with 17% during the same period in 2007.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the latest statistics showed progress.

"These figures underline our determination to tackle the scourge of knife crime. And they show that the tough approach is working.

"As the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has recently spelt out, if you are caught carrying a knife the consequences are serious: with jail sentences for many more offenders."

But opponents said that not enough of those who were caught with knives were being jailed.

"The tragic reality is that whilst fatal stabbings have increased by a third under this government, just one in five convicted of carrying a knife goes to jail," said Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve.

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