Thursday, 31 July 2008
Yesterday, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced a plan to introduce a licensing scheme for 'non domestic knife dealers'. This, apparently, will combat knife crime. How exactly?
The plan will require "Detailed written records of how a customer's age and identity were verified, full descriptions of knives sold and a ban on displays visible from the street or public entrance are among the conditions proposed for those who sell non-domestic knives."
Knife crime is higher up on the political agenda than it has been for a long time, and quite rightly so. Knife carrying seems to be endemic among young people, many of whom carry them out of fear of assault.
My martial arts instructor, Mark Davies was a bouncer in some of the harshest areas in Scotland for 19 years. During that time, he faced more knife attacks/threats than he cares to remember. The overwhelming majority of these blades were bog standard kitchen knives, pulled out of the kitchen drawer on the way out of the house. The fact is that non domestic knives such as hunting knives, or fancy bladed 'exotic' knives are prohibitively expensive to your average chav, who is fully aware that if caught, the knife will be confiscated. It is much easier then for him secure a cheap (set of five in a wooden block for £2.99 from Argos) kitchen knife which is actually designed to cut flesh, or even a screwdriver (which produces extremely difficult to treat wounds on the basis that when the screwdriver is withdrawn, the wound closes up) with which to arm himself. When Boss and I were involved in a knife incident in Edinburgh a couple of years ago (ironically only a week after I completed a knife instructors course), the knife in question was a substantial kitchen knife, not a 'non domestic' one. What research has been done by the Government into the type of knife used in assaults, or confiscated from someone carrying one? I'll bet very little.
And who is going to have to administer this new licensing scheme? Step forward already stretched local authorities.
Personally, I think this scheme is nothing more than crap, frothy, pointless legislation that is good for a tv soundbite, but that will not keep a single knife off the streets. Is this really the best that the Scottish Government can come up with? Its pathetic.
The headline on the Scottish Governments press release reads "Views Wanted on Licensing Scheme"
Well, here are my views:
We need hard hitting educational programmes in schools and youth venues, delivered by people who have faced knife violence in one way or another. Programmes that demonstrate graphically that stabbing someone in real life is a world away from the portrayal of knife wounds on games consoles or films. Programmes that show just how easy it is take a life, and ruin your own in the process.
We need tougher custodial sentences for those caught carrying knives (in today's Courier there is a story of one man carrying not one, but three KITCHEN KNIVES for his own protection - he got a £400 fine. you can read it here ). We also need to end automatic early release for prisoners (something the SNP at Westminster, including my own local MSP Andrew Welsh, an MP at the time voted to retain).
We need considerably more police on the beat providing a much more visible presence.
If the Government is serious about combating knife crime it should not seek to make life more difficult for disciplined martial artists, battle re-enactors and Highland dancers to obtain 'non domestic' knives and swords, but should focus instead on those who are tempted to, or routinely carry knives on the street.
And my final point of view on this is that the Scottish Government have failed utterly to bring forward any meaningful proposals to the table which demonstrates an understanding of the appalling effects of knife crime and knife carrying.
If this is the best that the Justice Secretary can come up with, he should be ashamed.