CHILDREN as young as 10 have been convicted or cautioned for dozens of knife crimes in Hampshire.

Youngsters between 10 and 15 were dealt on 59 occasions last year, accounting for 12 per cent of knife crimes in the county. The average for England and Wales was 10 per cent.

Labour MP Sarah Jones, chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime, has now warned that children being excluded from school could be a “tipping point” that leads them to pick up the weapons.

The group has called for schools to be more accountable for the pupils they exclude.

The figures were revealed by the Ministry of Justice, which also said 370 criminals of all ages were sentenced or cautioned for a first knife or offensive weapon crime in the year to June.

They accounted for 72 per cent of all knife-related cautions and convictions in Hampshire – and represented a 12 per cent increase on the number of first-time offenders during the same period five years previously.

Sarah Jones described the rise in such offences are a "national crisis".

She said: "These figures provide yet more evidence that knife crime is a national crisis which continues to grow.

"What's especially concerning is the number of new knife offenders, some as young as 10 years old."

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said a future with "no qualifications, no job prospects and no role models" is making many young people vulnerable to gangs who coerce them into carrying knives.

"To break the cycle of violence, we need to reach them before they reach for a knife.

"The government urgently needs to work with charities, education, health, youth workers, the criminal justice system and local communities to find long-term answers and restore children's hope, so they have a reason to turn away from crime."

In Hampshire, 29 per cent of convictions and cautions for knife-related crime led to an immediate prison sentence, lower than the 34 per cent who went straight into a custodial sentence across England and Wales.

Mr Khan said: "Tough sentences are part of the solution, but we need to tackle the root causes and understand why those involved carry knives."

Justice minister Chris Philp said the figures show that those caught carrying a knife are more likely to be sent to prison, and for longer, than at any time in the last decade.