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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Swords ban to beat violent crime
A sword handed in during a nationwide knife amnesty
Swords were handed in and destroyed during a knife amnesty
A crackdown on the sale of swords has been launched as part of a campaign to tackle knife crime and violence.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson announced laws to ban swords unless sold for legitimate reasons.

Shops selling swords will need a licence, as will businesses dealing with non-domestic knives and other bladed weapons such as machetes.

The measures are the latest steps from the Scottish Executive to curb the problem of knife crime.

They come weeks after a nationwide knife amnesty.

A total of 12,645 blades - including lock knives, machetes, swords, meat cleavers, bayonets and axes - were handed in during the five-week amnesty.

People must realise that swords cause horrific injuries when they get into the wrong hands
Det Chief Supt John Carnochan
Violence Reduction Unit

Exemptions to the ban on sword sales include swords that are to be used for Highland dancing, museum displays, historical re-enactments, fencing and martial arts.

Ms Jamieson said: "Knife-carrying is all too prevalent in some communities, particularly in the west of Scotland, and has cut short and scarred too many young lives.

"In these areas police, doctors and law-abiding citizens have seen the damaging effects of swords, including samurai swords, being wielded on the streets.

"It is simply far too easy at present for these weapons to be bought and sold."

Anyone selling swords under the exemptions would have to take "reasonable steps" to establish that the intended use was a legitimate one.

Commercial sellers will have to comply with strict new licensing conditions, including keeping records of all sales.

'Deep-rooted culture'

Ms Jamieson added: "The licensing regime for sales of all non-domestic knives should help weed out unscrupulous traders and help legitimate traders take steps to avoid these dangerous weapons falling into the wrong hands."

Swords on sale in a shop
Shops selling swords under exemption would need a licence

The measures will be included in a new Sentencing Bill, which will go before the Scottish Parliament later in the year.

It comes after First Minister Jack McConnell announced a five-point plan to tackle knife crime in November 2004.

Other parts of the plan brought in under the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act doubled the maximum penalty for carrying a knife to four years, gave police the unconditional power to search someone they suspect of carrying a weapon and increased the minimum age for buying a knife from 16 to 18.

Det Ch Supt John Carnochan, head of the police's violence reduction unit, hailed the measures as "another major step forward in the fight against knife crime and violence".

More than half the murders in Scotland each year are carried out with knives or other sharp weapons.

Det Ch Supt Carnochan said a licensing scheme alone would not solve "the deep-rooted culture of violence which is prevalent in parts of Scotland" but added that combined with the other measures it would have a positive impact.

Cultural problem

He added: "People must realise that swords cause horrific injuries when they get into the wrong hands. We routinely see incidents involving swords, which result in appalling injuries."

Kenny MacAskill MSP, justice spokesman for the SNP, said: "We must continue to recognise that knives are as much of a cultural problem in our communities as they are a criminal one.

"We must ensure we tackle the causes as well as the symptoms of this scar on our communities."

Margaret Mitchell, justice spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives , said: "I broadly welcome these moves but legislation alone is never going to be enough.

"We have to make sure that anyone who would use any kind of knife or weapon feels the full force of the law and the strongest possible custodial sentence."

How the proposed laws will affect the sale of knives

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