KNIFE crime convictions in the county are up, latest statistics show.

The number of people sentenced or cautioned in Wiltshire for a knife or weapon offence rose slightly from 169 in the 12 months to March 2018 to 177 this year.

The new Ministry of Justice figures came a month after a Toothill man was taken to hospital after he was stabbed three times. A week later, a boy was treated by doctors after he was slashed in the head by a group of youths in Stratton.

Sonja Leith, Wiltshire Police’s head of crime prevention, said: “These statistics show a slight increase in knife crime convictions over the past year and, although the public may find that concerning,

“I would like to highlight that we have been running a wide range of awareness campaigns, encouraging people to report incidents involving knives and weapons, as well as carrying out increased proactive work to crack down on the issue.

“These offences will also include incidents where people have been caught carrying a knife, rather than using one – and so this increase may be down to our commitment to stop and search, and our appeal to the wider public to contact police if they have concerns about someone carrying a knife.

“It is important to note that the vast majority of these types of offences involve people who are known to each other and very often are related to wider criminality, including drug dealing and County Lines operations.”

She added: “We completely acknowledge that, although Wiltshire remains one of the safest places in the country, people are worried about knife crime in their communities.

“At Wiltshire Police we are concentrating on a multi-agency approach, which involves educating young people about the dangers of carrying a knife, right through to arresting and convicting offenders if they are caught either carrying or using a weapon.”

“Anyone who is reading this and is concerned about knife crime, or worried about a friend who may have started carrying a weapon, then please go to our website for advice and support.”

Nationally, the number of criminals caught with knives or dangerous weapons has hit its highest level since 2010, official figures have revealed.

More than 22,000 offences of possessing or making threats with blades or offensive weapons resulted in a conviction or caution in England and Wales in 2018-19.

One in five of the culprits was aged between 10 and 17.

Swindon MP and justice minister Robert Buckland said: “These figures show that if you are caught carrying a knife you are more likely to be sent to prison - and for longer - than at any time in the last decade.” New laws would make it harder for young people to buy knives, he added.