Stock image of model pulling a knife from pocket of their jeansImage copyright Getty Images

The number of crimes related to knives and other offensive weapons dealt with by the courts reached its highest level for nine years last year, figures show.

The Ministry of Justice says 21,484 offences were dealt with in England and Wales in 2018 – the highest number since 2009 (25,103).

Of all those convicted or cautioned last year, 21% were under 18.

The figures show 37% of all offences led to an immediate jail sentence.

In 2009, 23% of offences ended up with jail. Cautions and fines were twice as likely to be used, compared with 2018.

The proportion of offences which resulted in just a caution was 23% (5,817) in 2009 and 11% (2,410) in 2018.

Fines were issued in 4% (951) of these offences in 2009, compared with 2% (524) in 2018.

The annual figures have been published following a spate of fatal stabbings, including the killings of three 17-year-olds in less than a week earlier this month.

And it is a day after police have been promised an extra £100m by the government to help them tackle a knife crime in England and Wales.

The government has said offenders are now more likely to go to jail for knife or offensive weapons crimes.

Justice Minister Rory Stewart said: “Knife crime destroys lives and shatters communities, and this government is doing everything in its power to tackle its devastating consequences.

“Sentences for those carrying knives are getting tougher – they are more likely to be sent straight to prison – and for longer – than at any time in the last decade.”

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Media captionKnife crime: What’s it like to be stabbed?

The MoJ figures – which cover not just knives, but other offensive weapons such as deliberately broken bottles, sharpened screwdrivers, knuckle dusters and corrosive liquids – only relate to England and Wales.

In Scotland, which has a separate legal system, the number of offences of handling offensive weapons recorded by Police Scotland between April and September 2017 was 4,060 – nearly double the figure measured for the same period four years earlier.

A separate report by the Scottish government last year said the proportion of convictions resulting in a custodial sentence had “generally fluctuated” between 30% and 40% between 2007-08 and 2016-17.

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