Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Knife crime blood 'on our hands'

John Muir
John Muir spoke at the Holyrood summit

A father whose son was stabbed to death has warned that Scotland will have "victims' blood on its hands" if it fails to act on knife crime.

John Muir, whose son Damian was stabbed eight times, has been campaigning for automatic jail sentences for those caught carrying knifes.

He made his comments at a summit on the issue in Holyrood's main chamber.

He also voiced a hope that the debate would prove to be a pivotal point in the fight against knife crime.

Young people, lawyers, leading police officers, the churches and social workers were all present for the summit, along with representatives from groups including Victim Support Scotland, Medics Against Violence and Mothers Against Murder and Aggression.

Today must be the pivotal point in the fight against violent crime and in particular knife and weapon crime
John Muir

Mr Muir, 69, said his son's death was one of "the shameful violent statistics which have blighted the Scottish nation for decades".

And he claimed there had been "a very nearly criminal institutional failure" to tackle the problem of knife crime.

He added: "That failure is borne by the frequency of the disgraceful statistics which shame Scotland.

"However, the statistics are real people. All and every one of the statistics represents a real victim and a person whose life has been taken or shattered, as well as their families and friends."

Mr Muir warned that the failure to "remove this menace decisively" would mean "there will be more needless carnage on the streets of Scotland".

Damian Muir, 34, was attacked in Greenock in July 2007 by 21-year-old Barry Gavin.

Gavin, who had twice avoided prison after being caught carrying knives, was later jailed for a minimum of 15 years.

Mr Muir said: "My son Damian Muir died at the hands of an individual who could have been prevented from such wickedness, had the appropriate action to avert this individual's destructive path been taken at the first opportunity."

'Violent lifestyle'

He added: "If the circumstances of Damian's death were unique then I could have been persuaded to accept that his death was an isolated tragedy.

"However, there was nothing unique or isolated, and most certainly it could have been avoided."

And he demanded: "Today must be the pivotal point in the fight against violent crime and in particular knife and weapon crime.

"What I'm trying to impress on this assembly is there surely should be no place for half measures where an individual has clearly demonstrated that they are engaged in a violent or potentially violent lifestyle.

"And when that person or individual arms themselves with a knife or other dangerous weapon there can be no half measures.

"Otherwise we will continue to have dangerous individuals at large and we will continue to have blood of our victims on our hands."

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing congratulated Mr Muir for his courage in speaking out on the issue.

Damian Muir
Damian Muir's killer was jailed for a minimum of 15 years

Mr Ewing said the country had "collectively failed" to tackle the problem of knife crime.

He stressed: "Until we answer the question why do people want to carry a knife and how can we prevent that we are never, never going to tackle this problem or move towards a solution.

"The purpose of today is to come up with solutions, to talk about the way ahead, to talk about what we can do more, what we can do better."

Earlier Frank McAveety, the convener of the public petitions committee, which organised the summit, explained the reasons for the event.

"We felt it was important as the petitions committee to try to bring together some of the individuals in Scotland who either experience the difficulty around knife crime, or who have to manage the issues that knife crime and the victims of knife crime have to confront."

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