Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 15:15 UK

Don't carry knives, Scouts told

Bear Grylls
TV presenter Bear Grylls is the current and youngest ever Chief Scout

Scouts have been advised not to carry penknives unless there is a "specific" reason to do so.

The guidance, published in Scouting magazine, follows confusion over laws on carrying a knife in public and a crackdown on knife culture.

Dave Budd, who runs safety courses for scouts, said knives "of any sort" should not be carried to camps unless there was a "specific need".

But Kent scout leader Sheila Burgin said it was health and safety gone mad.

The Sevenoaks troop boss told the Times: "The Scout Association doesn't want to be in trouble for encouraging people to carry knives, but I think it is very sad. It's health and safety gone mad."

Rules unchanged

Mr Budd said: "Scouts often have the need for a good knife, and in the early days every scout was actively encouraged to put a knife on their belt.

Anyone - including children - can buy fold-up knives if the blade is shorter than three inches
It is illegal to sell other sorts of knives to anyone aged 17 and under

"Sadly, there is now confusion about when a scout is allowed to carry a knife."

The Scout Association said that while it periodically updated its guidance on using knives, the basic rules had been largely unchanged for many years.

Current advice is that knives should be carried to and from meetings by an adult and should be kept in the middle of a bag or rucksack when being transported.

If knives are likely to be needed at a meeting or camp, they should be kept by Scout leaders and handed out as required.

"I would also suggest that proper training in the use and care of knives (and other tools) be taken, not only by the Scouts themselves but also by the leaders in charge," added Mr Budd.

In May, TV presenter Bear Grylls was revealed as the UK's latest Chief Scout, and at 34 years old, the youngest.

Gang culture

He said he hoped to inspire more adults to volunteer as leaders so the 33,000 youngsters currently on waiting lists could join scout groups.

A Scout Association spokesman said the organisation played a key role in helping youngsters develop the maturity and self-esteem to resist the peer pressure attracting them into local gang culture.

He said: "We believe that young people need more places to go after school and at weekends, where they can experience adventure without the threat of violence or bullying and the need to carry weapons.

"Scouting helps to prepare young people with valuable life skills, while keeping them safe by not carrying knives."

Correction 9 September 2009: This story has been amended to make it clear that the Scouts have not made a new ruling on this issue but were clarifying existing guidance.

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