War on knives 'may boost gun crime'
THE Scottish Executive's crackdown on knife crime could lead to a rise in the use of guns, a government adviser has warned.
Justice department officials have been told of a possible influx of illegal firearms into the country a result of the high-profile campaign to get knives off the streets.
Ministers have introduced a series of measures to make it harder for criminals to carry knives, including a licensing scheme for the sale of non-domestic knives and tougher sentences for people caught carrying bladed weapons.
Meanwhile, a nationwide amnesty that ran for five weeks this summer removed 13,000 knives and other weapons from circulation.
But in an internal Executive e-mail released under Freedom of Information legislation, Inspector Andy McKay, of Strathclyde Police, outlined concerns raised at a police conference in January about the adverse effect the knives campaign could have on gun crime.
He said Scotland's criminals preferred to use "real guns" as opposed to reactivated weapons or modified replicas, which are an increasingly common problem in big cities south of the Border.
Then, in a section headed "future risks", he warned: "Scotland may be posed with the problems faced by England and Wales from converted weapons - our activity on knives may be a catalyst for this to take place and we must be alive to this."
Mr McKay was on secondment to the justice department as a violent crime adviser when he wrote the e-mail. He returned to policing duties last month.
His warning emerged as police in Scotland launched a fresh, month-long crackdown on knives. From this week, the country's eight forces will target gang-plagued areas using intelligence-led, stop-and-search measures and the latest technology.
Hand-held and walk-through metal detectors as well as stab-proof Kevlar gloves will be used by officers in the campaign.
Last night, the SNP, which obtained the government documents, said police must guard against guns being smuggled across the Border into Scotland.
Christine Grahame, the party's social justice spokeswoman, said: "Police forces need to be aware and alert to the potential that gun crime could increase as a result of the crackdown on knives and ensure that the strategies in place to deal with his type of violent crime are flexible enough to tackle any changes, in terms of type of weapon used, which may arise."
A spokeswoman for the Executive insisted there was "no evidence" that getting tough on knives would lead to more gun crime.
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