TWO-thirds of local cautions or convictions for knife crime were handed to first-time offenders, new figures have revealed.

Ministry of Justice figures show 287 first-time knife crime offenders went through the criminal justice system in the year ending September 2023.

They accounted for 67 per cent of the total 430 criminals found guilty of knife and offensive weapon offences - up from 66 per cent the year before.

Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, said the high rate of first-time offenders reflects a need for ‘urgent action and a shift in focus’.

He added: “While all knife crime is unacceptable, the high proportion of first-time offenders is a red flag.

“It exposes a cycle where people are often drawn into violence and face potentially life-altering consequences.

“This is not just a criminal justice issue, but a societal one demanding a multi-faceted response.”

The figures also show 17 per cent of knife crime offenders in England and Wales last year were under 18 years old.

Of the offenders dealt with by South Yorkshire Police, 60 were children.

Mr Green said: “Young people are particularly vulnerable to the allure of knife crime due to complex factors like poverty, lack of opportunity, social media and exposure to violence.

“Simply arresting our way out of this crisis is not enough.

“We need to invest in preventative measures that address these root causes.”