Knife crime victims feel "they haven't received the justice they deserve" after over half of Hertfordshire repeat criminals avoided jail last year.

Ministry of Justice figures show that 56 repeat offenders aged over 18 in the county were found to be in possession of a knife in the year ending September 2023.

But in 53 per cent of cases, or 30, the offender avoided immediate custody and was only cautioned or given a community or a suspended sentence instead. 

The police force level figures could include both previous possession and threatening offences.

It comes as nearly four in 10 offenders across England and Wales who were caught with a knife or offensive weapon for at least the second time were not sent to jail.

The Ben Kinsella Trust said victims are left “feeling like they haven't received the justice they deserve”.

Nationally, 4,127 adults were found guilty of a repeat possession offence. Of them, 62% were sent to jail immediately – a significant fall from 71 per in 2018, three years after a new policy on repeat offenders was launched.

In 2015, the ‘two-strike’ rule was introduced, which promised adults convicted of carrying knives would face an automatic six-month prison sentence after their second conviction.

In the year to September 2018, 29 per cent walked free from jail but this went up to 38% last year.

In Hertfordshire, 21 of 64 repeat criminals were spared jail six years ago – a smaller proportion than in 2023.

Ben Kinsella Trust chief executive Patrick Green said: “The Government’s ‘two-strike’ policy was presented as an important intervention in the fight against knife crime, promising to deter potential offenders and deliver justice for victims.

“Yet, the data paints a disturbing picture where four out of 10 repeat offenders are walking free. The Ben Kinsella Trust emphasises that this inconsistency between policy and practice undermines the very purpose of the two-strike rule.

“It fails to deliver a strong deterrent effect and leaves victims feeling like they haven't received the justice they deserve.”

The policy also applied to young offenders, with those aged 16 and 17 said to face a minimum four-month detention and training order.

Across England and Wales, there were 273 young offenders, 101 of whom were sentenced to immediate custody.

A government spokesperson said: “While sentencing is for independent courts, our latest figures show more knife-carrying criminals are being sent to jail and for longer than a decade ago.”