A killing every four days as Scottish murder toll rises

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Scotland’s homicide rate soared by nearly a fifth over the past year, newly released government figures have revealed.

A total of 95 cases were recorded by Scotland’s police forces during 2010-11, which led to the deaths of 97 victims – a sharp rise of 18 per cent on the 82 recorded the previous year.

The statistics also showed that the bulk of the homicides were alcohol or drug-fuelled, with the killer under the influence of drinks or illegal substances in 79 per cent of all cases. Scotland’s justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, seized on the figures to claim that “bargain basement booze” was to blame for the increase in homicides, after it emerged that 53 per cent of all cases saw the attacker under the influence of alcohol.

However, knife attacks in Scotland accounted for almost two-thirds of homicide cases during 2010-11 – a 74 per cent increases on last year’s figures and the highest for a decade.

Almost two-thirds of all Scotland’s homicide cases recorded in 2010-11 were in the Strathclyde Police force area, according to the new figures, which includes murders and cases of culpable homicide

A total of 64 per cent of Scotland’s homicide cases were in Strathclyde, which contains 43 per cent of the country’s population.

Mr MacAskill said: “These figures confirm what we already know: bargain basement booze can have a fatal price. We will not shirk from taking tough action on alcohol abuse and we cannot allow this mindless violence, which has devastating consequences for families and communities across Scotland, to continue.

“Scots drink more than any other part of the UK. In a society where a man’s weekly alcohol limit can be bought for about £4, tackling price is nothing short of essential.

“Every single life lost is one too many and every murder is a horrific tragedy for families, loved ones and for communities. I take today’s figures very seriously and can assure every man, woman and child that this government will continue to work tirelessly to make Scotland a safer place.”

Scottish Labour’s shadow justice minister, James Kelly, described the 74 per cent increase in knife murders that saw blades used in 61 of the recorded cases – the highest figure since 2001-2 when the figures was 56 – as “deeply concerning”.

He said: “Knife killings now account for a greater proportion of killings in Scotland than at any point in the last decade. The SNP is quick to blame drink and drugs, which of course we must tackle, but that does not explain why knives, overwhelmingly, continue to be Scotland’s weapon of choice.”

Tory justice spokesman David McLetchie claimed that the figures showed a need for “exemplary prison sentences” for knife crime.

He said: “It is time for a coordinated crackdown on knife crime. Our courts should be handing out exemplary prison sentences to those who carry knives and use them to commit serious assaults and murders. This approach has worked in the past.”