August 1st, 2011
Knife crime is a blight on our communities and claims far too many lives, that we can all agree on.
How we go about tackling it and keeping our streets safe was where we couldn’t get reach an agreement on.
I supported the clear message from this community, that we needed a tougher approach that saw those who carried knives facing the full consequences of their actions.
When victims like John Muir made that argument to the so-called experts, the Scottish Government and senior police, they were dismissed, told it was too expensive and wouldn’t work anyway.
Well, those that took the party line over public opinion have egg on their face now and we have been proved right, if the latest actions of the Lord Advocate are anything to go by.
Frank Mulholland, Scotland’s top prosecutor, has rang the changes and it means knife criminals are more likely to go to prison and receive longer sentences.
This toughening up of court procedures have got to be welcomed and this is some reward for those campaigners who have been pushing for change for a long time.
It finally accepts the principle that prison is a deterrent and is an important tool to tackle knife crime.
The challenge now will be monitor these changes and hope that sheriffs use these powers to punish knife criminals effectively.
It’s worth remembering that this campaign started because sheriffs weren’t handing out the sentences people thought were appropriate and these changes give no certainty that this will be the case now.
With as many as two-thirds of people on a knife charge escaping court without a prison sentence, it seems the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime.
I am hopeful though that the renewed focus on knife crime that John Muir’s campaign has brought about will mean knife crime is tackled more effectively.
But importantly, this u-turn vindicates the efforts of our tireless knife campaigners and sends out the message that we all agree on – knife crime is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated.