A hardline crackdown on knife crime in Scotland has been branded a “failure” after it emerged just one offender has received the new maximum five-year sentence.
This is despite more than 900 convictions for carrying a knife having been committed in Scotland last year, prompting accusations that that claims of a tough approach are “hot air.”
Offenders can expect to serve an average of just 14 months.
Scotland has been praised for its approach to tacking knife crime over the past decade, with London mayor Sadiq Khan suggesting Glasgow’s success could provide a blueprint to address the issue in the UK capital.
But the proportion of offenders caught carrying a knife who are jailed has fallen slightly from 39 per cent to 37 per cent, with one judge warned recently that Scotland is facing a knife crime “epidemic.”
The number of people convicted of carrying a knife in Scotland fell from 941 in 2015-16 to 917 the following year.
The SNP introduced the maximum sentence of five years for knife crime in 2016 saying that it demonstrated a commitment to tackling the increase in knife crime on Scotland’s streets. But figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through Parliamentary questions show that just one person convicted of carrying a knife has been given the maximum five-year sentence.
Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “The maximum sentence for carrying a knife was increased to five years to tackle the increasing issue of knife crime.
“If these figures are anything to go by, this tactic has wholly failed.
“For only one criminal to have received the maximum sentence shows just how toothless the sentence guideline is.
“The SNP talks a good game on knife crime but it is clearly nothing more than hot air.”
The average sentence for carrying a knife was 14 months in 2016-17 although this was up by 37 days on the year before, official figures show.
The past decade has seen a dramatic decline in both violent offence and knife crime in Scotland, with much of the success having been attributed to the innovative approach from the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in Glasgow.
A so-called “public health approach” saw officers working with teachers and social workers to help identify alternatives to gang culture and cut offending. It resulted in violent crime falling by almost half over the decade, with crimes involving a weapon down by two thirds.
The most recent figures have seen violent crime increase again. Sheriff Marie Smart warned that “carrying a weapon is an epidemic” in Scotland as she jailed Steven Smith for a daylight knife attack on Caroline Allan in Bellshill.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the five year sentence was about ensuring that the court has the “power it needs2 to tackle serious offences of posession.
She added: Sentencing in each case however remains a matter for the independent court, where they have all the facts and circumstances before them.”