Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Pointless Legislation II





So, on top of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's call for a licensing system for non-domestic knife dealers which I posted about here, an SNP Councillor recently submitted a motion to their national conference calling "on stricter controls over the sale of large, pointed knives".

So let's look at just how effective bans etc are. The first tranche of bans came in 1988 and banned such well known and oft used weapons such as the "kusari gama”, a length of rope, cord, wire or chain fastened at one end to a sickle;
the “kyoketsu shoge” , being a length of rope, cord, wire or chain fastened at one end to a hooked knife and the “manrikigusari” or “kusari” , being a length of rope, cord, wire or chain fastened at each end to a hard weight or hand grip. Even today, I doubt if many people have heard of these, never mind used them (I am only dimly aware of them and have never even seen them - I also suspect they would be extraordinarily difficult to use) but they were banned nonetheless.

Fast forward now to the recent sword ban which covered swords with curved blades etc etc. This was essentially aimed at 'Samurai Swords' (more properly known as Katana, the short version being a Wakizashi and the dagger which goes with the set is a Tanto).

Seem like a good idea? Why not pop over to Ebay and search for 'ninja sword'. These are extremely similar to Katana, but (among other things) the blade is straight. You can get a twin set of these for less than a tenner plus postage, there are hundreds on there. Ironically, this is a lot cheaper than the fancy dress ninja outfit that you can buy to go with your swords at £17.99.

Surely, this was well thought out legislation though eh? Well, this comment is from a police officer "The weapon has to be over 50cm in length. This rules out the machetes I was attacked with not too recently. The machete is one of the current favourite weapons of armed robbers and one I come across regulary during searches."

Hmmm let's take a look at some of the written questions submitted to the Scottish Executive on knife/sword crime (you can search for more on the Scottish Parliament website):

Let start with a couple of easy ones:

S2W-12577 - Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con) (Date Lodged Thursday, November 25, 2004): To ask the Scottish Executive how it defines a sword.

Answered by Cathy Jamieson (Friday, December 10, 2004): Recorded crime statistics available centrally record the number of homicide victims killed by a sharp instrument. They do not identify the types of weapons used and, consequently, there are no central definitions of weapons types.

S2W-12579 - Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con) (Date Lodged Thursday, November 25, 2004): To ask the Scottish Executive how it defines a non-domestic knife.

Answered by Cathy Jamieson (Friday, December 10, 2004): Recorded crime statistics available centrally record the number of homicide victims killed by a sharp instrument. They do not identify the types of weapons used and, consequently, there are no central definitions of weapons types.

The First Minister recently announced the Executive’s five point action plan on knife crime, including a licensing scheme for non-domestic knives and a ban on the sale of swords. The Executive plans to consult on those proposals in the new year.

Interesting, though not very promising, so how many swords and knives have actually been used in assaults etc?

S3W-4107 - Jackson Carlaw (West of Scotland) (Con) (Date Lodged Friday, September 07, 2007): To ask the Scottish Executive what knife crime figures have been in each year from 1995 to 2007, also showing the number of (a) street robberies involving blades, (b) people who died following blade attacks and (c) number of people admitted to hospitals with knife wounds, broken down by day of the week.

Answered by Kenny MacAskill (Thursday, September 20, 2007): With the exception of homicide cases, statistics on knife crimes are not held centrally. The number of homicide cases in each year from 1995 to 2006, in which the method of killing was with a sharp instrument, are shown in the following table. Homicide figures for 2006-07 are due to be published on 18 December 2007.

So, do hospitals note what kind of weapon was used when wounded people are admitted to hospital?

S2W-30275 - Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con) (Date Lodged Thursday, November 30, 2006): To ask the Scottish Executive how many victims of knife attacks have been (a) treated in accident and emergency departments and (b) admitted to hospital in each NHS board area in each of the last five years.

Answered by Andy Kerr (Thursday, December 21, 2006): Routinely collected information on attendances at accident and emergency departments does not allow the identification of victims of knife attacks.

Centrally held information on hospital admissions does not explicitly identify knife attack victims. However, table 1 identifies those patients admitted to hospital as an emergency after being assaulted by sharp objects.

Ok, so we are not sure how many knives or swords were used in these attacks, we only know that it was a "sharp object" which could include old favourites such as screwdrivers and chisels. Well that's helpfull. When will the ban on pointy things be mooted then?

So where am I going with this? Well, the 1988 legislation has been shown to be pretty inneffective. Ditto with the sword ban, and I'm 100% certain that licensing dealers of non domestic blades will do bugger all too.

I'm absolutely NOT advocating knife or sword ownership, but I do feel the current and recent crop of legislation surrounding knife crime is hopelessly ill thought out and will do the sum total of nothing to reduce knife carrying and use.

Many young people carry knives because they are afraid for their own safety, not realising that they are more likely to get into conflict when they carry one. The fact is we have to find a way to persuade people not to carry them in the first place, and that won't be achieved by simplistic bans or other knee jerk reactions.

I have already stated my views on possible solutions in an earlier post, but I think the Government, and its predecessors have been approaching this in an ad hoc way that really lacks any kind of focus and their 'solutions' will ultimately end in failure.

Knife crime is horrific, if you have ever seen someone stabbed, even with a small knife in real life, you will know just how awful it is. I have seen it, and its one of the reasons I care so much about ending it. Politicians have to get more idea of the realities if they are to have any chance at all of being succesful.

2 comments:

Fox In Detox said...

"Politicians have to get more idea of the realities if they are to have any chance at all of being succesful."

Truer words have never been spoken....and what are the odds of that happening?

Jim said...

Well Fox, I'm not holding my breath!