Knife crime protesters march outside Scottish Parliament

Barry McLean's family lead a procession down Edinburgh's High Street. Picture: Robert Perry
Barry McLean's family lead a procession down Edinburgh's High Street. Picture: Robert Perry
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ANTI-KNIFE crime campaigners have marched outside the Scottish Parliament calling for tougher sentences for killers.

More than 100 campaigners carried banners and wore T-shirts reading “Ditch the knife and cherish life” and “Justice for Barry”, in memory of 27-year-old Barry McLean who died last year.

Fighting back tears as he addressed the rally, his father Alan McLean said: “We must join together and unite against knife crime. Every one of us here has suffered so much, lost so much, and we all ask for so little in return.

“We need our peers to listen to what we are saying to make Scotland safer.

“Let’s make our streets safer, and remember most of all we need to protect our children and our children’s children.”

Barry, from Burntisland in Fife, left behind his partner Jennifer and seven-month-old son Connor when he died in May 2011.

The campaigners are calling for a minimum tariff of 25 years for knife killers, mandatory prison sentences and clearer directions from the court and judges to help juries navigate their way through “legal jargon”.

Campaigners gave a lukewarm welcome to a recent Scottish Government announcement that the maximum sentence for knife possession would now be five years, saying “only three people” served the full four-year term under the existing law.

Campaigner Steve Keicher, a friend of the McLeans, said: “We’ve written to (Justice Secretary) Kenny MacAskill and (First Minister) Alex Salmond several times and keep getting told that politicians can’t get involved.

“We understand the need for an arms length between politicians and the justice service, but we believe that the law needs to be changed to cut back on legal jargon in the court process.

“If you read judges’ directions to the jury it’s very difficult to understand what the message is.

“I’ve been told Lord Carloway is reviewing the way judges deliver their speeches, and how to simplify them, and he’s even saying in his review that it can be complex for the layman.”

John Muir, from Greenock in Inverclyde, lost his son Damian to a knife killer aged 34 in 2007.

He said: “Knife crime is a carnage to Scotland. We want to change the face of the justice system by making it stronger.

“If someone is sentenced to a number of years they should do that number of years in prison.

“We also want a Victims Commissioner, and further consideration into a minimum tariff of 25 year for knife murder like England and Wales have.

“There was an announcement last week that knife possession could lead to a maximum sentence of five years.

“Well, from 2006 to now it was four years and only three people served that maximum sentence.”

He said he has interest from campaigners in Blantyre, Hamilton, East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Aberdeen seeking to make the Inverclyde Anti-Knife Group and Campaign for Justice a national movement.

Campaign chair Margaret Telfer said: “My grandson Andrew Newbury was stabbed when he was 15.

“They thought at first that it was a minor injury but it was close to his heart and a millimetre away from being fatal, so he had to undergo heart surgery.

“He’s 20 now and he’s beginning to get his life back together, which is good because for four years he wouldn’t leave the house.

“Those who are imprisoned for knife crime get an education in prison, but he missed out on his education because of the trauma.”