Just one in every 20 criminals convicted by Sussex Police for possessing knives, guns or other weapons are sentenced to at least a year in prison.
Ministry of Justice statistics show that 15 out of the 256 people convicted for weapons possession offences last year were handed prison time of 12 months or more.
In fact more offenders received a community order, 74 in total.
Out of the 404 suspects Sussex Police brought to court, 63% were found guilty.
Weapons possession offences include having a gun, knife or bottle of acid in public, and more serious crimes include threatening someone with blades or firearms or taking them to schools.
Currently the minimum sentence is a community order and the maximum is four years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.
However in June new guidelines will come into place making the minimum sentence six months in custody.
In 2017 just two of those convicted received a sentence of four years or more. If the defendant was sentenced for two separate offences, the data combines their custodial time.
Of the total, 98 weapons trials were dealt with at crown court, indicating they are the most serious offences. The rest were seen at magistrates’ court where the maximum sentence is six months’ imprisonment.
Of those cases held at crown court, 47% were convicted.
Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, a charity which aims to raise awareness about knife crime, said it was “important that we send a message that we are not going soft on offenders”.
Ben was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack in 2008 when he was just 16-years-old. His family set up the trust in his honour.
Mr Green continued: “The average custodial sentence for carrying a knife in Scotland is almost twice that of England and Wales. Knife crime is falling in Scotland and rising in England and Wales.
“But it’s critically important that we stop people carrying knives in the first place, we cannot police our way out of this.
“Education should be our first port of call and if offenders go on to carry knives there should be strong consequences. It is unclear from these figures whether that is the case.”
Mr Green explained that the two strike rule meant that people caught with knives would only face a custodial sentence on the second offence.
“What the public want to see from non-custodial sentences is a low reoffending rate. The public needs to see that young people are not going to continue carrying knives.”
Sexual offences was the crime group which had the lowest conviction rate in 2017 at 33%, with theft trials having the highest rate at 80%.
The overall crown court conviction rate for Sussex Police was 62.2%, with 1,127 out of the 1,812 suspects found guilty. That’s lower than the England and Wales average of 63.2%.
This was lower than 2016 when 63% of people were convicted.
The conviction rate for magistrates’ courts was higher at 89.9%. Magistrates’ courts deal with less serious cases and do not have jury trials.
Source data <https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/criminal-justice-system-statistics-quarterly-december-2017>