Scottish Daily Mail

2,000 reasons why SNP’s knife crime clampdown failed

- By Graham Grant Home Affairs Editor

KNIFE crime is soaring despite the SNP’s boast of a successful crackdown, shocking new figures reveal.

There were nearly 2,000 incidents where people were caught with knives in public last year, according to Scottish Government data.

One of the Nationalis­ts’ most-repeated claims is that the number of cases of handling any offensive weapon has fallen, making Scotland’s streets safer.

But buried in official figures released this week showing that recorded crime had slumped to a record low were other statistics showing an increase in the carrying of knives in public.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Douglas Ross said: ‘The SNP is supposed to be getting tough on knife crime but these figures suggest more people feel it appropriat­e to carry a blade. That makes our streets more dangerous. We need to get tough on those found in possession of a knife, which will ensure a deterrent is in place and see these figures drop.’

According to Government figures on recorded crime, cases of people handling an offensive weapon of any kind fell from 3,289 to 3,111 between 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson praised Police Scotland’s ‘excellent’ work, saying he was ‘very pleased that Scotland now has the lowest rate of recorded crime in 42 years, including reductions in drug crime, theft and handling offensive weapons’.

But the number caught with knives in public, contained within the ‘offensive weapon’ figures, rose by 3 per cent, from 1,892 to 1,951.

It previously emerged that almost two-thirds of thugs found with knives and other offensive weapons were spared prison last year.

The proportion who avoided a jail term has risen, with hundreds instead handed soft-touch Community Payback Orders (CPOs) – which are widely flouted. Some are fined or electronic­ally tagged.

Knife crime overall has been on the decline but the data shows that of those offenders caught with offensive weapons, a growing number are being shown leniency.

The Mail has previously revealed that more than a third of CPOs issued for handling offensive weapons are flouted.

The human cost behind the figures was underlined in June, when tributes were paid to a teenage boy who died a week after being stabbed. Luke Wallace was attacked near Bannerman High School, Bailliesto­n, Glasgow, on June 17. The 16-year-old died from his injuries while being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. A 16year-old youth from Glasgow has appeared in court charged with assault to severe injury, danger of life and attempted murder.

In another case, knife-wielding William Hamilton broke into the Edinburgh home of Charles and Anne Murphy. The then 15-yearold slashed Mr Murphy’s face and threatened to kill the couple.

But after social workers compiled a ‘positive’ social work report on Hamilton for his court appearance in 2012, he was spared a jail term and handed an 18-month CPO and 225 hours of community service.

Last night, the Scottish Government said that since 2009, it had provided more than £3million of funding to the No Knives, Better

‘It makes our streets more dangerous’

Lives initiative, which aims to educate young people about the dangers of carrying weapons. It has also ‘committed a further £75million to community initiative­s’ as part of its Cash Back for Communitie­s programme – ‘which invests money seized from criminals back into communitie­s, providing a wide range of opportunit­ies and early interventi­on projects, largely for young people’.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Handling offensive weapons offences, including knife possession, have fallen by 69 per cent since 2006-07. This shows our twin approach of tough enforcemen­t and education and diversion is making our communitie­s safer.’

THERE was much self-congratula­tion this week when the SNP revealed recorded crime had slumped to yet another low.

But ministers preferred not to dwell on alarming statistics showing that violent crime is up and sexual offences have reached an all-time high.

Today, we reveal that cases of carrying a knife in public are on the rise, with nearly 2,000 logged in 2015-16 – a rise of 3 per cent on the previous year.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson had trumpeted a fall in the handling of ‘offensive weapons’ as proof that the streets were getting safer under the SNP. But the minutiae of the official data tells a more disturbing story – one that flies in the face of the narrative the Nationalis­ts have relentless­ly promoted for several years. Their continual boast is that they have finally got to grips with a social problem that has blighted Scotland for generation­s – and indeed, significan­t progress has been made.

That is jeopardise­d, however, by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which will introduce a new statutory code on how police use stop and search, amid criticism that children were searched without consent.

Alex Salmond is for once entirely right in predicting that this could make it harder for officers to keep knives off the streets, a warning that appears to have fallen on deaf ears. But Maureen Douglass, the mother of a young man who was savagely stabbed to death, made the most damning judgment of all when she accused the SNP of gesture politics on the issue.

Tougher jail terms were promised – but all too often soft touch Community Payback Orders are deemed a fitting disposal for those found carrying weapons.

Is it any wonder that thugs roam our streets with deadly blades when they know full well they face little danger of substantia­l punishment?

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