Hospital stab admissions down

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The Independent Online

The number of people admitted to hospital with stab wounds has fallen by eight per cent while there has been an increase in those going to jail for possessing a knife, according to figures released today.

The Government said the statistics showed its actions to tackle the knife crime scourge, which has created alarm particularly because of the number of teenagers who have been murdered, was beginning to work.

Last June, Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed to get tough on the problem and told prosecutors they should take tougher action against those found with weapons rather than let them off with a caution.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed that 21 per cent of offenders had received a prison sentence in the last three months of 2008 compared with 17 per cent a year before.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said that meant the number getting a custodial sentence had risen by almost a quarter while the number of cautions was down by 31 per cent.

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

"The figures show that tougher penalties are being implemented by the courts. Fewer cautions are being issued and we're seeing more community sentences, more suspended sentences and more prison sentences handed out."

However the Conservatives said the figures showed that only one in five of those caught with a knife ended up behind bars.

"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 Dominic Grieve, the Tory Shadow Justice Secretary.

"The government's obsession with gimmicks, spin and gestures betrays the victims and puts the public at risk."

Meanwhile statistics from the NHS said the number of hospital admissions for "assault by a sharp object" had fallen by eight per cent between December 2007 and November 2008 compared with the year before.

They also showed that the number of teenagers admitted to hospital with knife injuries had fallen 14 per cent.

In areas covered by the Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP), a police crackdown in 10 "hotspots" across England, admissions for stabbings were down 10 per cent across the board and 17 per cent in the teenage group.

In December, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had to apologise for prematurely releasing "selective" figures on knife crime in a move that was criticised by the authority that oversees official statistics.

The government had announced that TKAP had led to big falls in stabbings and in the number of teenagers carrying weapons over the summer.