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Fewer jailed for carrying knives

Four out of five criminals caught with a knife are not being jailed immediately, new figures have shown.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said the Government is "absolutely clear" that anybody convicted of possessing a knife should expect to be sent to prison and judges have been told to consider a 12-week starting point for the lowest-level offence.

But just 19% of those caught in possession of a knife between January and March were jailed, down from 23% in both the same period last year and the year before.

Instead, one in three was given a community sentence, with the proportion up to 33% from 31% last year and 30% in 2009.

Of the 5,228 offenders caught in possession of a knife or offensive weapon in the first quarter of the year, just 1,014 were jailed and the proportion receiving longer sentences also fell.

A total of 327, or 32%, were sentenced to more than six months in jail, down from 34% last year.

But the average length of a custodial sentence remained about the same at 207 days - about seven months - compared with 208 days last year.

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