We cant afford not to get tough on Knife crime
- Published Date: Monday 7th February 2011
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Murdered student Reamonn Gormley standing amongst smiling kids at a school in Thailand, it was the most enduring image of the year for me.
The Glasgow University sports psychology student spent three months in Thailand last summer where he volunteered as an English teacher at The Good Child Foundation, a charity for youngsters with Down’s syndrome.
Tragically the 19-year-old from Blantyre was attacked and stabbed to death as he walked home with his friend after watching football in his local bar last Tuesday evening.
It beggars belief how a talented and selfless young man with so much promise could have his life cut down by a killer’s blade.
However the reality is that Scotland is in the grip of knife-crime epidemic which is being fuelled by a soft-touch justice system.
Despite the Scottish Government spending £30million over the past four years on efforts to curb knife-crime, three people a month die from blade-related injuries in Scotland.
And official figures show that two-thirds of all blade-carriers are still avoiding jail.
I was even astounded to read a few weeks back when Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill announced that 2,030 weapons, including knives, had been confiscated in Scotland’s courts last year – up from only 311 in 2007.
The fact that thugs are still brazen enough to come “tooled-up” to their court appearances reflects the scale of the problem.
I even laugh when the police and government send out their latest figures on those caught carrying a knife – the alarming thing is that it only accounts for the people they have collared, what about the rest of them?
The whole debate has blown up in a week where Mr MacAskill announced plans to scrap short-term jail sentences in favour of community-based punishments.
To be honest I’m all for the Community Payback Order for low-level offenders as an alternative to prison sentences of less than three months.
There will be a labour shortage needing filled as local authorities battle budget cuts, and hopefully the plans will also make soft offenders realise there is a genuine alternative to a life of crime.
But let’s get one thing clear, carrying a knife is not a low-level offence and we now need a strong deterrent to stop people from carrying in the first place.
It really is time for the Justice Minister to wake up to a serious social problem where people are allowed to carry knives without the threat of real punishment.
This is simply the wrong message to send to any criminal or any potential offender.
What we need now are mandatory prison sentences for anyone caught carrying a knife.
And it has to be one strike and you are out, otherwise it simply won’t work.
Failure to act now will mean that we will continue to lose outstanding young men like Reamonn in communities up and down the country.
And looking at the all good that Reamonn brought into the lives of those young Thai schoolkids and everyone around him, it’s clear that we simply can’t afford to do that.