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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 16:45 GMT
Knife users get longer jail terms
Policeman holding a knife - Getty Images
People caught carrying knives are being jailed for longer
Jail terms for knife crime in Scotland have increased since the introduction of new guidelines, according to prosecutors.

Crown Office figures show the number of people accused of knife crime who are kept in custody has more than doubled.

The average sentence in cases that would previously have carried a maximum six months is now said to be 10 months.

In May 2006 the lord advocate brought in new measures to tackle the number of people in Scotland carrying knives.

The Crown Office said more than 200 people caught with knives had been prosecuted under indictment, instead of by lower-level prosecution, giving greater sentencing powers to judges.

The figures come from an analysis of 74 cases dealt with since the new measures came into effect last June.

Oppose bail

Of these, 56 people or 76% pleaded guilty and a further five, or 7%, were found guilty.

The overall conviction rate was 82% and out of the 61 people convicted, 59 were jailed, with an average sentence of 10 months.

Under the new guidelines anyone caught carrying a knife is arrested and kept in custody pending a court appearance, regardless of whether they have used the knife in a separate offence.

When they appear in court, prosecutors will oppose bail if there are previous convictions.

If those convictions are for a similar offence the prosecution will normally take place before a judge and jury.

Carry or use a knife to harm someone, and you risk going to straight to custody and staying there for a long time
Elish Angiolini QC
Lord Advocate

The current Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini QC, said: "We have a duty to contribute to the goal of deterring knife offending.

"This initial analysis shows that the policy introduced last year is doing just that.

"Carry or use a knife to harm someone, and you risk going to straight to custody and staying there for a long time."

Det Ch Supt John Carnochan, head of Scotland's Violence Reduction Unit, said: "The current generation of knife carriers, particularly young men who think it is ok to carry a knife, should be aware of the repercussions under the new measures."

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said: "Carrying a knife in public is a serious offence for which individuals will be required to face serious consequences."

Most of the knife crime was in the Glasgow area, and most of it was committed late at night or in the early hours of the morning.

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