More criminals were sentenced or cautioned for knife and weapon offences in Gloucestershire in the year to March, new figures show.

Ministry of Justice figures show 139 knife and offensive weapon crimes resulted in a caution or sentence in Gloucestershire in the year to March – an increase of 8% on the year before.

This means there were 25 offences per 100,000 people in the area, up from 23 the year before.

The figure includes possession of, or threatening with, a knife or other offensive weapon, but do not include all offences, such as murder or assault.

Across England and Wales, an estimated 21,325 knife and offensive weapon crimes resulted in a caution or sentence in the 12 months to March.

This was 4% fewer than the year before, but was still the third-highest annual figure since current records began in 2010.

Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said it is a welcome relief to see a small decrease in numbers in the last year.

He added: “But we need to remember that these figures show that knife crime is still 53% higher than it was in 2014.

"So sadly, knife crime has not gone away and we need to maintain the focus in tackling and preventing this heinous crime."

The figures cover just to the start of the coronavirus lockdown, but the MoJ said any impact on the data from the pandemic was likely to be small.

The figures show around 38% of offenders in England and Wales received an immediate custodial sentence – the average of which rose to 7.9 months in the year to March, compared to 7.7 before.

In Gloucestershire, 22% of offenders went straight to prison.

Adults and juveniles cautioned or sentenced are increasingly likely to be repeat offenders, with the proportion of first-time offenders dropping from 80% in the year ending March 2010 to 71% in the latest figures.

The MoJ said sentencing remains a matter for independent judges, but that threatening and repeat possession offenders should expect to go to prison.

Justice minister Chris Philp said: “Knife crime is a devastating blight on too many communities and this government is determined to do everything it can to make our streets safer.

“We are recruiting 20,000 more police officers, making it easier to use stop and search and ensuring the most violent offenders spend longer behind bars.”