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BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay reports
"The increase in homicides is largely in the Strathclyde area"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 14:18 GMT
Scottish homicide rate soars
Knives were used in a growing number of killings
The number of killings in Scotland has soared by almost a quarter, according to new figures.

The statistics showed an upsurge in homicides caused by knives or other sharp instruments - and an equal increase in the number of men dying.

The death toll has been condemned as "unacceptable" by Justice Minister Jim Wallace.

The statistics released by the Government Statistical Service showed that there were 120 homicide victims in Scotland last year.

This annual pattern of young men with knives killing young men cannot be allowed to continue

Jim Wallace, Justice Minister
That figure was an increase of 22 on the previous year - taking it to the highest level since 1995.

The rise was accounted for by the number of men killed, which also rose by 22 to 99. The female figure remained constant at 19.

The deaths of more than half the victims were attributed to rages or quarrels, many resulting from alcohol or drug abuse.

It also emerged that more than half the deaths were due to knives or sharp instruments, with the figure rising from 44 to 66.

More than three-quarters of the victims knew their killer or killers.

Violent death

A quarter were killed by their partner or a relative, many as an escalation of ongoing domestic abuse.

Mr Wallace said he was "extremely concerned" about the figures, which cover murder and culpable homicide cases.

"That 120 people should suffer a violent death at the hands of another person is totally unacceptable in the modern civilised Scotland we are trying to create," he said.

"This is why it is so important that we are taking action to change a culture of alcohol, drugs, domestic abuse and street crime, backing this with more police than ever before."

Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace said the figures were unaccaptable
He was particularly concerned at the rise in the number of male victims, many of whom were under 30.

"There is a clear picture of young men carrying knives who are prepared to use them regardless of the consequences, not only to their victims and their families but also to themselves and to their own families," he said.

"Alcohol is often involved. This annual pattern of young men with knives killing young men cannot be allowed to continue.

"Today's figures once again demonstrate a tragic and senseless waste of life. We will do all we can to protect our communities."

Trouble 'hot spots'

Deputy Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm is due to announce details of a comprehensive strategy to tackle alcohol misuse on Thursday.

Scottish police forces are targeting licensed premises particularly known as "hot spots" for trouble throughout December.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Phil Gallie said the executive had to start acting.

"They are on the totally wrong tack when they start to close prisons and when they reduce the police numbers. They have got to reverse that situation," he said.

The Scottish National Party said the executive had to tackle the culture of young men carrying knives.

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See also:

16 Nov 00 | Scotland
Police concern at knives haul
12 Oct 00 | Scotland
Crime hits 25-year low
05 Oct 00 | Scotland
War declared on violent crime
03 Mar 00 | Scotland
Scotland tops murder league
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