Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Labour urges knife prison terms

Labour called for mandatory prison sentences for carrying knives

New plans to introduce mandatory six month jail sentences for carrying knives are being put forward by Scottish Labour.

The party will lodge amendments to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill in the Scottish Parliament.

Under the plans, courts would be compelled to give custodial sentences for knife crimes except in exceptional circumstances.

The Scottish government said there were already harsh penalties.

It also highlighted new projects to tackle knife crime at community level.

The Scottish Tories branded Labour's plans "woefully inadequate".

We've seen jail terms for knife carrying increase by a third, and I have made it clear that those who use a knife should expect to go to jail
Kenny MacAskill
Justice Secretary

Community safety spokesman John Lamont said: "It is too bad that it has taken Labour so long to realise that there was a problem and that urgent action was required.

"However, although we do welcome their conversion to our policy, Labour's plans are woefully inadequate."

Labour's move follows a campaign and petition by John Muir, whose son Damian, 34, was murdered in Greenock in 2007.

His attacker had twice avoided prison after being caught carrying knives.

Labour has agreed to take forward Mr Muir's campaign.

Tough action

Its justice spokesman Richard Baker said: "When Labour doubled the sentence for knife crime it was the right thing to do but it has not made the impact that the public wanted.

"Only a mandatory minimum sentence in the same way gun crime is dealt with will make the changes that the public expect."

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill insisted his party was taking tough action on those who carried and used knives.

He said: "We've seen jail terms for knife-carrying increase by a third, and I have made it clear that those who use a knife should expect to go to jail.

"The Scottish government are also working to change the culture around violence in Scotland - our award-winning No Knives, Better Lives initiative is working directly with young people to explain the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife."

The SNP has put forward plans for the establishment of a Scottish Sentencing Council.

Ministers have argued that having such a body to determine sentencing for those caught carrying dangerous weapons would be more appropriate than the presumption of prison.

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