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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
Licence plan for knives crackdown
Tougher restrictions on knife sales have been unveiled
The sale of swords and non-domestic knives is to be licensed under plans announced by the Scottish Executive.

A consultation has been launched seeking views on options designed to tighten the availability of weapons.

The review is part of a series of measures to reduce violent crime and Scotland's weapon carrying culture.

The Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson wants to make it more difficult for people to buy offensive weapons without legitimate reasons.

Her proposals, which will be subject to consultation until September, include licensing the sale of knives that are not intended for preparing food.

Authorised sellers would need to record the purchaser's name, address and age.

Nobody living in a normal house or flat in an ordinary community needs a sword as part of day-to-day life
Cathy Jamieson
Justice Minister

Swords would require a licence and would only be sold to members of approved organisations for specific ceremonial, religious, or sporting purposes.

In a related move, the executive also announced immediate moves to ban non-metallic "stealth knives" which are seen as a particular problem as they cannot be picked up by metal detectors.

Under an order laid before Holyrood on Tuesday, stealth knives and some types of batons will be added to a list of offensive weapons covered by the 1988 Criminal Justice Act.

This will make it an offence, punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a 5,000 fine, to make, import, sell or hire those weapons.

Stealing knives

But retailers called on the executive to provide evidence that a licensing system would curb knife crime.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) complained of a "knee-jerk" reaction.

While it backed "sensible" measures, the consortium said it was not convinced that the plan could curb knife crime and warned of a "nightmare of unnecessary bureaucracy".

Slashed face
Knife attacks have become common place in Scotland

SRC director Fiona Moriarty said: "Determined criminals will access knives by buying, stealing or taking knives from the kitchen drawer - regardless of a licensing law."

From 1998 to 2003, just under half of the 667 murders committed in Scotland involved the use of a knife.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said she was committed to tackling a weapon-carrying culture among young men.

Ms Jamieson added: "This remains at the forefront of our drive to improve public safety.

"Making it harder to buy a non-domestic knife would deter those without legitimate reason for owning one, and would force the "small minority" of unscrupulous traders to behave more responsibly.

'Small price to pay'

"Nobody living in a normal house or flat in an ordinary community needs a sword as part of day-to-day life.

"Those with a legitimate reason for needing a non-domestic knife or sword should not, however, be put at a disadvantage by these proposals.

"Some necessary administrative safeguards are a small price to pay to tighten up the availability of these weapons in the wider community."

Cathy Jamieson
Cathy Jamieson said she wanted to tackle the weapon-carrying culture
She also said that the executive was working with police and other agencies to study the root causes of weapon-carrying behaviour, identify preventative measures and find ways of acting early to break the cycles of violence and brutality.

"I want to send a clear message to the people of Scotland that knife crime is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

"We are determined to confront this problem by introducing tough new measures to support the police and protect communities."

The Scottish National Party welcomed the curbs but said it was absurd that airguns were not covered.

Nationalist MSP Kenny MacAskill said: "Firearms cause as much carnage as knives and swords and action must be taken against them before further damage is done."

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01 Mar 04 |  Scotland
Police use knife crime powers
28 Feb 04 |  Scotland


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