Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Sunday, 28 February 2010

Knife prison plan not 'effective'

Labour called for mandatory prison sentences for carrying knives

A chief constable has said "discretion" for sentencing people convicted of knife crime should stay with sheriffs.

Lothian and Borders Police chief constable David Strang said he did not think a mandatory minimum sentence would be "effective".

Scottish Labour has proposed a mandatory six-month jail sentences for those caught in possession of knives.

Mr Strang also said community sentences rather than short jail term would help to tackle the causes of crime.

The Scottish government's Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill includes plans to bring in a presumption against prison sentences of six months or less.

Mr Strang said: "What we as a country need to do is to not send people to prison unnecessarily.

Lothian and Border chief constable David Strang
The chief constable said sheriffs should retain discretion on sentencing

"It should be an absolute last resort and sentences ought to be aimed at reducing offending in the long-term.

"So that we are addressing offenders' behaviour and making them repair the damage that they've done in a community.

"So I think there are real attractions to the alternatives of community sentences."

He added: "Some community sentences are very effective and the re-offending rate is only about a third. So community sentences can be much more effective than imprisonment."

On automatic minimum sentences for knife crime, Mr Strang told the BBC's Politics Show Scotland: "I think the discretion needs to remain with the sheriff or the judge who is sentencing.

"Clearly each case is an individual. Each offender has a personal background and I think it's absolutely proper that the court, having heard all the circumstances of the offence and of the offender's circumstances, can impose a sentence that is appropriate."

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