JUST seven criminals convicted by Wiltshire Police of possessing knives, guns or other weapons were sentenced to at least a year in prison in 2017.

Ministry of Justice statistics show that 87 people were found guilty in court of weapons possession offences last year. However only eight per cent were handed prison time of 12 months or more while 37 were given community orders.

Weapons possession offences include having a gun, knife or bottle of acid in public, and more serious crimes include threatening someone with blades or firearms or taking them to schools. Currently the minimum sentence is a community order and the maximum is four years' imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence. However in June new guidelines will come into place making the minimum sentence six months in jail.

In 2017 just one of those convicted received a sentence of four years or more. Out of the 138 suspects Wiltshire Police brought to court, 63 per cent were guilty.

Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust, which aims to raise awareness about knife crime, said: "Education should be our first port of call and if offenders go on to carry knives there should be strong consequences. It is unclear from these figures whether that is the case."

Of the total, 27 weapons trials were dealt with at crown court, indicating they are the most serious offences. The rest were seen at magistrates' court where the maximum sentence is six months' imprisonment. And of those cases held at crown court, 48% were convicted.

Mr Green said: "The average custodial sentence for carrying a knife in Scotland is almost twice that of England and Wales. Knife crime is falling in Scotland and rising in England and Wales.

"But it's critically important that we stop people carrying knives in the first place, we cannot police our way out of this

He explained the two strike rule meant that people caught with knives would only face a custodial sentence on the second offence.

"What the public want to see from non-custodial sentences is a low reoffending rate. The public needs to see that young people are not going to continue carrying knives."