Leading Scots doctor in call to ban ‘killer’ kitchen knives

A call for a ban of "killer" knives in the kitchen.
A call for a ban of "killer" knives in the kitchen.
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The new chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland is calling for a ban on “killer” kitchen knives.

Dr John Crichton, who took on the role in June, said the sale of pointed kitchen knives should be banned to help reduce the number of fatal stabbings.

He is proposing a switch to “R” bladed knives, which research by the Metropolitan Police has found can be as protective as an anti-stab vest.

Dr Crichton conducted a study into 260 mental health services users who had committed homicide. He found 45 per cent of the murders involved a knife and of the knives that could be identified, 85 per cent were kitchen knives.

In 2015, Bailey Gwynne was stabbed to death at Cults Academy in Aberdeen after a dispute with another pupil. In that case, the murder weapon was bought online.

Dr Crichton said research shows that many attacks, particularly in households where there has been a history of violence, involve kitchen knives because they are so easily accessible.

He believes a switch from sharp-pointed, long-bladed kitchen knives to a new “R” point design could save lives.

“This is a public health measure and public health measures are always about society deciding on a self-imposed restriction for the public good,” he said. “It is a bit like the smoking ban or minimum alcohol pricing.”

Dr Crichton developed his proposal following the trial of Theresa Riggi, an American mother who murdered her three young children with a kitchen knife in Edinburgh in 2010. She pled guilty on the grounds of diminished responsibility, later committing suicide inside a secure hospital in 2014.

Dr Crichton, who was an expert witness at the trial, said: “It was a very stressful case to deal with. I decided afterwards to take a three-month sabbatical.

“I had been collecting inquiries into mental health service users who had committed homicide. I had 260 of these and I went through them in detail in a systematic way.”

The results of the study showed that of 870 UK homicides carried out by current or recent users of mental health services the homicide victim was a partner or family member in 85 per cent of cases. Only 15 per cent were stranger victims, as opposed to 25 per cent for all homicides.

Dr Crichton’s study showed that 45 per cent of the homicides involved a knife and that, of those that could be identified, 85 per cent were kitchen knives.

Critics have pointed out that the New Point knives could still cause significant injury, but Dr Crichton says in all the post mortems he has examined, only two deaths have been caused by slashing injuries – the rest were stabbings.

He would like to see safe kitchen knives introduced in all schools and colleges following the murder of Aberdeen schoolboy Bailey Gwynne. He would also like the government to re-examine the issue with a view to bringing in legislation.

Dr Christine Goodall, a founder of Medics Against Violence, said: “We need to stop people from thinking about picking up a knife in the first place.”