SCHOOL KNIFE CRIME SCAN­DAL

At least 79 in­ci­dents since Bailey Gwynne was stabbed to death But half of coun­cils don’t know scale of prob­lem in their area

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - FRONT PAGE - by Stu­art Find­lay sfind­lay@sun­day­post.com

HALF of Scot­land’s lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties are fail­ing to gather i nfor­ma­tion about the num­ber of knife in­ci­dents in their schools – two years af­ter the fa­tal stab­bing of pupil Bailey Gwynne.

The Sun­day Post can re­veal that there have been 79 knife in­ci­dents in Scot­tish schools since Bailey’s death – in­clud­ing an alarm­ing 20 in just nine months in Aberdeen, where the teenager went to school.

But the ac­tual to­tal will be much higher, as half of the country’s 32 coun­cils were un­able to sup­ply fig­ures – be­cause they do not col­late them.

Last night, cam­paigner John Muir de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as “shock­ing”.

Mr Muir, who founded the In­ver­clyde Anti- Knife Group af­ter his son Damian was stabbed to death in Greenock in 2007, said: “If some­one is caught car­ry­ing a knife at school, it’s a red flag – their name should be go­ing on a reg­is­ter. So how can so many coun­cils say it’s too dif­fi­cult to find out how many have been caught?

“There is still far too much pussy- foot­ing around when it comes to knife crime.

“A per­son be­ing struck down with a knife, like Bailey Gwynne was, is one of the most ter­ri­ble things a fam­ily can en­dure.”

An in­de­pen­dent re­port on Bailey’s death com­piled for Aberdeen City Coun­cil rec­om­mended that all knife in­ci­dents in schools should be re­ported to po­lice and prop­erly recorded by the author­ity.

The Scot­tish Govern­ment’s new guide­lines on re­duc­ing school ex­clu­sions also call for the proper record­ing of in­ci­dents in­volv­ing weapons.

But 15 coun­cils were un­able to pro­vide fig­ures, with most say­ing they would have to check ev­ery pupil’s record in­di­vid­u­ally to get the in­for­ma­tion and the process would be too costly.

Cam­paigner David Stark said

par­ents should a lways be in­formed of knife in­ci­dents at their child’s school.

Mr Stark, whose 25- yearold brother Sean was mur­dered by a knife- wield­ing thug out­side a pub in Lochgelly, Fife, in 2009, said the num­ber of young­sters caught with blades in Scot­land in the last two years was con­cern­ing.

“It shouldn’t be like this,” he said. “Why are so many young peo­ple bring­ing a knife to school? My brother’s old­est daugh­ter is due to go to high school next year and this re­ally wor­ries me.

“I’m sur­prised to hear some coun­cils say­ing they

don’t know how many have had knives. “Surely ev­ery school should know with­out hav­ing to search through ev­ery pupil’s record?

“If some­one at my kid’s school had a knife, I’d cer­tainly want to know.

“If they’re not keep­ing track, how else can they check if things are get­ting bet­ter?”

An in­quiry ruled 16- year- old Cults Academy pupil Bailey’s death was “po­ten­tially avoid­able” if teach­ers had been told that a pupil car­ried weapons.

His killer, who can­not be named, was later jailed for nine years af­ter be­ing found guilty of cul­pa­ble homi­cide.

A five- day trial at the High Court in Aberdeen heard the in­ci­dent in­volved an ar­gu­ment over a bis­cuit.

A friend of the boy who killed Bailey told the court he had shown him a knife and knuck­le­dusters on sev­eral oc­ca­sions from the end of 2014.

Po­lice Scot­land said last year that there had been 15 knife in­ci­dents at Aberdeen schools be­tween October 28, 2015, when Bailey died, and October 2016, tak­ing the to­tal num­ber in the last 22 months to 35.

In Dundee, eight in­ci­dents have been recorded since the start of the 2015- 16 school year, as well as a fur­ther seven in both East Ayr­shire and Glas­gow, and six in Shet­land.

An­gus and Clack­man­nan­shire recorded five each, Ar­gyll and Bute and In­ver­clyde two each, and Stir­ling and Ren­frew­shire one apiece.

Ed­in­burgh, Dum­fries and Gal­loway, Falkirk, High­land, North Ayr­shire, South Ayr­shire, North La­nark­shire, South La­nark­shire, West Dun­bar­ton­shire and West Loth­ian coun­cils said they could not pro­vide the in­for­ma­tion be­cause it was not held cen­trally and it would re­quire search­ing each in­di­vid­ual pupil’s record, which would be too time-con­sum­ing.

Aberdeen­shire, Mid­loth­ian and East Loth­ian coun­cils said they could not pro­vide fig­ures be­cause in­ci­dents were only recorded when they re­sulted in an ex­clu­sion.

Fife and Western Isles au­thor­i­ties failed to re­spond to re­quests for in­for­ma­tion.

The new fig­ures are re­vealed as the Ben Kin­sella Trust, a youth char­ity, warns young peo­ple are be­com­ing “in­creas­ingly de­sen­si­tised” by knife crime, and con­sider the fa­tal con­se­quence to be an in­evitabil­ity of life.

Nor th East MSP and the Con­ser­va­tives’ jus­tice spokesman, Liam Kerr, said the na­tional fig­ures were “deeply alarm­ing”.

He said: “No­body wants to see a re­peat of the hor­rific events at Cults Academy.

“The sta­tis­tics from Aberdeen City Coun­cil will hor­rify par­ents. If there have been 20 in­ci­dents in a nine- month pe­riod then that raises some very se­ri­ous ques­tions.

“I would be in­ter­ested to know if this is just a prod­uct of a more strict ap­proach in schools since the Bailey Gwynne tragedy or if we are fac­ing an up­ward trend of pupils car­ry­ing weapons.”

North East Lib Dem MSP Mike Rum­bles added: “There is never any ex­cuse for car­ry­ing a knife in school or else­where.

“Aberdeen City Coun­cil and their part­ners need to en­sure that they are do­ing ev­ery­thing in their power to stamp it out.”

A spokesman for Aberdeen City Coun­cil said the rec­om­men­da­tions from the re­port into Bailey Gwynne’s death had all been im­ple­mented.

He added: “Sup­port and train­ing was given to head teach­ers on re­port­ing knife in­ci­dents in part­ner­ship with Po­lice Scot­land.

“In Septem­ber 2016 a city­wide meet­ing was held and the weapons pro­to­col es­tab­lished.”

Mean­while, a stained glass win­dow com­mem­o­rat­ing Bailey has been in­stalled at his school.

The colour­ful art­work was un­veiled dur­ing a pri­vate event, which was at­tended by his fam­ily.

The panel in­cludes ref­er­ences to some of Bailey’s favourite places, in­clud­ing Paris, Barcelona and Caith­ness, as well as the Gwynne fam­ily dogs, the Scouts, his fam­ily and friends and his hopes for a ca­reer in the Marines.

Aberdeen teenager Bailey Gwynne, left, died af­ter be­ing stabbed at Cults Academy in October 2015.

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