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Knife killings at highest level for six years, figures show

There were 215 homicides perpetrated using a knife or other sharp instrument in the year to March 2017.

Figures on homicides involving knives have been published (Katie Collins/PA)
Figures on homicides involving knives have been published (Katie Collins/PA)

Fatal stabbings in England and Wales are at the highest level since the start of this decade, official figures show.

There were 215 homicides perpetrated using a knife or other sharp instrument in the year to March 2017.

The figure was similar to 2015/16, when there were 212, but it is the highest number of such killings since 2010/11, when there were 236.

(PA Graphics)

Detailed analysis of homicides – which include murder, manslaughter and infanticide – showed the most common method of killing was by knife or other sharp instrument.

The 215 victims killed in this way accounted for 30% of the total 709 homicides in the year.

The findings – set out in a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)- come at a time of mounting concern about a surge in knife violence.

Alarm over the trend has focused in particular on London after a flurry of fatal stabbings in the capital.

There were 164 male victims of knife or other sharp instrument homicides from April 2016 to March 2017, the highest number since the year ending March 2009, when there were 180.

In contrast, 51 girls and women were stabbed to death, the lowest number in 10 years.

Across both sexes, 67 of those killed by knives or sharp instruments were aged 24 or under – almost a third of the total. All but 10 of those were male.

They are the latest statistics to point to an increase in crime involving blades.

Police recorded 37,443 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in the 12 months to September 2017 – a rise of more than a fifth (21%) on the previous year.

Separate justice figures show the number of knife possession offences resulting in a caution or sentence hit the highest level for six years between July and September.

Last year, the Government unveiled plans for a package of measures following a surge in violent offences recorded by police.

The proposals include a drive to tighten the regime covering online sales of knives following concerns that age-verification checks can be sidestepped.

Where a knife is sold on the internet, it will be an offence to deliver the item to a private residential address.

The buyer would have to collect the knife in person at a location where their age can be checked.

Alex Mayes, policy and public affairs adviser at charity Victim Support, said: “Knife crime has devastating effects for families and it is concerning to see that fatalities have reached their highest level this decade.

“It is really important that police, educators and local groups work together and with communities to tackle the root cause of these offences and to support all those affected.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Every single death from knife crime is a tragedy and this Government is working to break the deadly cycle and protect our children, families and communities.

“We have already consulted on new laws on offensive and dangerous weapons, including banning online stores from delivering knives to residential addresses and making it an offence to possess certain weapons in private.

“But tackling this emerging crime requires a new way of thinking.

“Our new Serious Violence Strategy, which will be published in the Spring, will represent a step change in our approach to this crime – putting a stronger focus on steering young people away from violence whilst continuing to ensure the strongest possible law enforcement response.”

Press Association

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