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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 December 2005, 16:17 GMT
Homicide rate hits 10-year high
Knives
Knives and other sharp objects were the most common weapons
Scotland's homicide rate for 2004-05 was the highest in almost a decade, according to newly released figures.

There were 137 victims of homicides in Scotland, 29 more than in 2003-04, and the highest annual total since 1995-96.

In almost three-quarters of the cases, the main accused was known to the victim.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said a strategy to tackle the "cultural acceptance" of violent behaviour would be rolled out next year.

The local authority area with the highest annual homicide rate was Glasgow with 55 victims per million population, more than double the national rate.

The figures included murder and culpable homicide and excluded death by dangerous driving.

Serious violent behaviour is a problem which rarely affects those living in our leafy suburbs
Cathy Jamieson
Justice Minister

As in previous years, the use of a sharp instrument was the most common method of killing in 2004-05, accounting for 72 victims.

However, the number of victims killed in this way was the highest recorded in the past 10 years.

Fifty-five per cent of the 134 homicide cases recorded in 2004/05 have so far resulted in a conviction for murder (44 cases) or culpable homicide (30 cases).

Fifty individual accused people were convicted of murder and 42 of culpable homicide in these cases. Eighty-nine per cent of the accused were male.

Attack motives

Over the past decade, nearly half of the homicides took place at the weekend where the victim and the accused were both male, aged 16-49, and where the main motive was a fight or quarrel.

More than 50% of the accused were acquaintances of the victims and nearly a fifth was a partner or relative.

Knives poster
Part of an anti-crime initiative by Strathclyde Police

For 18% of victims the main accused was a stranger.

Of the 127 accused whose drink and drug status was known, 45% were drunk, 10% were on drugs and 15% on drink and drugs.

After the figures were published, Ms Jamieson highlighted a new strategy to "challenge the culture of violence" in Scotland.

She said that, among other measures, Strathclyde Police's Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) would be expanded to create a national "centre of excellence" to share violence prevention best practice across Scotland.

'Harsh reality'

"Serious violent behaviour is a problem which rarely affects those living in our leafy suburbs.

"It is however, a harsh reality for too many people in hard-pressed communities.

"Violence which, as last year's homicide statistics remind us, often involves a victim and attacker who know each other, often carried out by young men aged between 16-24, mostly occurs at the weekends and is too often fuelled by drink."

Ms Jamieson said that in the past year, the executive had brought forward legislation to tackle the problems of knives and irresponsible drinking.

She added: "While the VRU is still in the early stages of its work, violent crime statistics for the first six months of this year show significant improvements.

"We need to build on that kind of approach throughout the country."

Police 'shortage'

Margaret Mitchell MSP, the Conservative justice spokeswoman, said the figures were "very worrying".

She said: "The criminal justice system is haemorrhaging due to a lack of police on our streets and the operation of automatic early release.

"We can see that some of the homicides are committed by those who should still be in prison.

"I am calling on the executive to ditch the rhetoric, to act now and to abolish automatic early release."

SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill MSP said: "What is truly staggering is that Glasgow's homicide rate is higher than Belfast's and is more than double the Scotland-wide rate.

'Knife culture'

"The knife culture must be stamped out and a growing gun culture nipped in the bud.

"The underlying causes of crime need targeted, but there must be no mercy shown to those who use guns, knives or other weapons randomly or indiscriminately."

Jeremy Purvis MSP, Liberal Democrat justice spokesman said: "These are disturbing figures, especially that 53% of the murders were committed by people with knives.

"This adds weight to my view that the Police Bill needs to be tougher on knife crime.

"We should take this opportunity to bring the law on knife crime into line with the law on firearms."




BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
See reaction to the latest murder statistics



SEE ALSO
Jamieson vows to tackle violence
19 Sep 05 |  Scotland
Police condemn knife crime level
18 Jul 05 |  Scotland
New moves to beat violent crime
10 Dec 04 |  Scotland

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