Scottish Government
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Knife crime convictions

Tougher guidelines for police and prosecutors are having a significant impact on continuing efforts to combat knife crime, the Solicitor General for Scotland, Frank Mulholland QC, announced today.

Mr Mulholland unveiled figures showing that those caught carrying knives are being taken off the streets more quickly and kept in custody for longer.

Since the new guidelines were introduced on 26 June 2006:

  • More than 600 knife carriers have been prosecuted on indictment rather than summary complaint, allowing a greater sentencing power for the judge
  • Convictions have been recorded in more than three quarters of concluded cases
  • 78 per cent of these convictions have resulted in imprisonment.
  • Prosecutors have opposed bail in 83% of these cases, of which 69% have resulted in the accused being kept in custody pending trial.
  • The average sentence of imprisonment passed for knife crime prosecutions on indictment is more than 11 months

Mr Mulholland said:

"These figures send a clear message to those who carry knives or use knives to harm others. That message is simple: you risk going straight to prison and staying there for a long time. Anyone thinking of carrying a knife should think again. We will not be relaxing our robust prosecution policy."

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, Head of Strathclyde Police's Violence Reduction Unit, said:

"This lets persistent knife carriers know that not only are you more likely to be stopped and searched, but you can be kept in custody and remanded in prison to await trial."

"Carrying a knife is using a knife: by picking up a knife you have already committed that crime.

"We remain committed to primary prevention: ideally we would like a situation where no one even thinks about carrying a knife. But that kind of attitudinal change will take time, and until then the application of such robust practices and procedures are vital."

The measures introduced to tackle knife crime provide that:

  • Anyone caught carrying a knife, whether they have used it in a separate offence or not, will be arrested and kept in custody pending their appearance in court
  • Prosecutors will oppose bail if an accused has one or more previous conviction involving possession or use of a knife. Bail will also be opposed if an accused has a previous conviction for an offence of violence, which resulted in a custodial sentence
  • Where an accused has a previous conviction for a similar offence there is a presumption in favour of prosecution before a judge and jury

These measures relate to cases where an accused has been charged with any offence involving the possession or use of a knife including offences under sections 47 or 49 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995:

  • Section 47 makes it an offence to have an offensive weapon with you in a public place without a reasonable excuse
  • Section 49 makes it an offence to have an article with a blade or point (this aims at knives) with you in a public place without good reason. Other subsections of section 49 make it an offence to have a knife with you in a school or to have an offensive weapon with you in a school

The Statistical Analysis covers the period June 26, 2006 until December 31, 2008.


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