22 May 2006
THE DEADLY TOLL OF OUR BLADE CULTURE...
ONE person a week is killed with a knife in Scotland.
The F-ZONE can reveal the horrific statistic the day before a nationwide knife amnesty is launched.
And today, the Lord Advocate will announce a radical shake-up of how Scotland's justice system deals with offenders.
The most up-to-date figures show that in the eight years since 1998, 395 people across the country have died in attacks involving bladed instruments - an average of nearly one fatality a week.
Those deaths account for more than half of all the murders in Scotland, making the country, statistically, one of Europe's most violent.
And with over a dozen fatal knife attacks this year already, the total number of such deaths since 1998 has now hit 400.
Tomorrow, Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson will be in Edinburgh to launch the knife amnesty which is part of the Safer Scotland campaign.
It follows a similar project organised by Strathclyde Police in 1993. Codenamed Operation Blade, it saw 4500 weapons handed in.
Jamieson said: "We have all seen the impact of Operation Blade and I would now like to see that replicated throughout the country."
The amnesty will run until Friday, June 30 and all weapons handed in will be checked forensically to see if they have been used in any crime.
Despite repeated efforts by the Executive and police to crack down on knife crime, the problem remains a major headache.
Last year, 72 people died from stab wounds in Scotland, the highest number since 1998.
Politicians from all parties have repeatedly attempted to find a solution to the situation which has seen Scotland branded one of the world's most dangerous countries in a recent United Nations' report.
But despite their efforts, they are struggling to curb the so-called "knife culture".
This was again highlighted at the weekend after the suspicious death of a teenage boy in Glasgow.
The so-far unnamed 19-year-old died following an incident in the city's Ruchill district late on Saturday night.
The youth was attacked in Parkbrae Drive and was taken to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary but he died a short time later.
A police source said that it was understood a knife had been used, but an exact cause of death could not be established until after a post-mortem examination.
In the year after the 1993 amnesty for all types of weapons, murder rates dropped by 26 per cent.
But Jamieson knows that the roots of the knife culture lie deep within Scottish society.
The minister said: "Such a deep-seated problem cannot be solved overnight but action needs to be taken to make communities safer. I now call on all those people who carry a knife to think about the consequences.
"Use the amnesty as an opportunity to put this behind you and stop more young people being killed or maimed through such thuggery."
The precise details of what Lord Advocate Colin Boyd will announce today have yet to be revealed, but police sources expect he will press for increased sentences and more stop-and-search powers.
Announcing the amnesty in February, he said: "I have commissioned a review of prosecution policy on knife crime which will ensure that prosecutors maintain a robust approach to such cases.
"They will give careful consideration to prosecuting persistent and violent offenders."
A report issued by the Executive last summer about the problem showed that "knives and other sharp instruments are the most common method of killing in this country".
The report continued: "We cannot allow people to carry them for 'protection' or as a status symbol.
"Carrying a knife can be the first step towards becoming a criminal' the first step towards taking a life' the first step towards tearing apart the very fabric of our communities."
One part of the Safer Scotland initiative is the violence reduction unit, who are a group involving police forces from all over the country.
Their head is Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan from Strathclyde Police.
Yesterday, he said: "The knife amnesty is only the first stage in a 12-month campaign aimed at tackling the culture of violence.
"A weapons surrender alone will not solve this deep-rooted problem, however. It is part of the 'contain and manage' phase of our long-term violence reduction strategy.
"The amnesty is an opportunity for people to make that potentially life-saving decision and hand in their locking knives or whatever weapon they choose to carry.
"We hope to take as many knives and weapons off the streets as possible."
Another part of the campaign will be launched in Inverclyde on Wednesday with the introduction of special bins where people can dump their weapons.
Bins will be put in Cathcart Street, Greenock, and the Fore Street car park in Port Glasgow, with others located in the foyer of the region's police stations.
Superintendent David Stewart of Greenock police said: "Some people are reluctant to enter a police office and surrender a knife,.
"However, we want to maximise the opportunity for them to get rid of their weapons.
"We will be going after the most violent individuals in Inverclyde who carry knives and engage in violent behaviour.
"We want to send out a strong message to those who engage in such behaviour and carry weapons that it is not safe to carry a knife because, if you do, you will get stopped, searched and arrested."
He added: "We are delighted that Inverclyde Council is supporting the knife amnesty.
"We want to ensure that this campaign is a real success and take as many knives off the streets as possible.
"Before we took this decision with the council, we carried out a full risk assessment and ensured all aspects of health and safety legislation are covered."
The controversial UN report published in June last year claimed that Scots were three times more likely to be the victim of a violent assault than an American.
It also alleged that the country had a higher murder rate than the United States, Uzbekistan and Chile.
And according to its findings, around 2000 people a week are attacked in Scotland, 10 times the official police statistics.
PEGGY Weir was 93 when she became one of Scotland's oldest knife victims.
The frail pensioner was stabbed nine times and left in a pool of blood after confronting intruder Daniel Jebb in her Glasgow flat on Christmas Eve 2004.
Last September, Jab, 22, admitted killing Peggy.
He was given a life sentence with a recommendation he serve at least 16 years before being considered for parole.
THUG Derek Ferguson had been released early from a previous jail sentence when he attacked and killed a teenage boy.
The 23-year-old was convicted last November of murdering Steven Pettigrew in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, in April.
Ferguson had served just five years and four months for his previous attack, which left the victim brain-damaged.
He is serving a life sentence for killing Steven, 16.
HEROIN addict Adam Gallagher stabbed his victim to death after finding him lying collapsed on the ground outside a pub.
Czech fruit worker Marek Smrz, 21, awoke in the street in Arbroath to find Gallagher, 18, trying to rob him.
Gallagher stabbed him through the heart with a steak knife as he tried to resist.
In March, a jury at the High Court in Perth convicted Gallagher of murdering Marek.
'A weapons surrender alone will not solve this problem. But weare hoping to take as many knives off the streets as possible'
22 May 2006
393 CONS FLEE FROM OPEN JAIL...
HUNDREDS of prisoners including murderers and rapists have escaped from an open jail in the latest scandal to hit the Home Office.
Since 1999, 393 prisoners have absconded from Leyhill Open Prison in Gloucestershire, according to Home Office figures.
Of those, 22 were murderers, five had manslaughter convictions, seven were rapists and 24 were drug dealers.
The figures were released in a written Commons answer to Lib Dem MP David Laws.
He said the disclosure was another example of the "shambolic" Home Office and called for an urgent review.
Law added: "Murderers, rapists, burglars and robbers are escaping from this one prison at the rate of almost two per week.
"Serious criminals who should be locked up are getting out to commit extra crimes."