Knife crime plans in Scotland 'may cost £80m'
Published: 14th Mar 2010 01:12:03
Proposals for mandatory jail sentences for carrying knives could cost more than £80m a year in Scotland, figures obtained by the Scottish Lib Dems show.
The party claims an extra 1,345 people would be jailed under the proposals.
Labour want six-month terms for knife carriers, which the Lib Dems claim would cost £21m. It said Tory plans for two-year sentences would cost £83m.
Labour and the Conservatives said the number of knife carriers would be reduced if there were tough deterrents.
The Lib Dems based the figures on Scottish Prison Service (SPS) estimates on how much it costs annually to keep inmates in jail.
A parliamentary answer from Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing indicated that an extra 1,345 convicts would be jailed for the offences of having in a public place an article with a blade or point, possession of an offensive weapon or restriction of offensive weapons.
The SPS estimated that prisoners cost about £31,106 to keep in jail annually.
Robert Brown, the party's justice spokesman, said: "Labour and Conservative proposals are pie in the sky. Scotland's jails are overcrowded as it is.
"If an extra 1,345 offenders were sent to prison, we'd need to build another Barlinnie just to house them all.
"All the evidence suggests most of them would come out of prison worse than they went in, and a more serious danger to the public."
Labour has lodged amendments to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill at Holyrood, calling for the automatic six-month sentence.
It agreed to take forward a campaign by John Muir, whose son Damian, 34, was murdered in Greenock in 2007. His attacker had twice avoided prison after being caught carrying knives.
But Mr Brown said: "Mandatory sentences are unworkable, ineffective and completely unaffordable.
"Liberal Democrats think this money would be better spent keeping knives out of young people's hands and battling against gang culture.
"The appropriate sentence in individual cases must be a matter for the courts, not politicians."
However, Labour said the number of knife carriers would drop if there was a deterrent.
Its justice spokesman Richard Baker said: "Labour this week exposed the fact that 70% of knife criminals currently avoid jail.
"Only sending this tough message will deter knife criminals. The right approach will mean fewer criminals carrying knives and therefore fewer criminals would have to go to prison.
"However, this is also a question of principle. There were a record 57 knife murders in Scotland last year - does Robert Brown want to give me a figure what saving a life is worth?"
John Lamont, the Conservative community safety spokesman, said: "The Lib Dems have shown they care more about the criminal than the victims of crime."
He said the party had based its figures on "far more than knife carrying".
"A mandatory minimum sentence for carrying a knife would act as a massive deterrent and any amount of dodgy arithmetic from the Lib Dems won't alter that fact," he added.
"If they want to be soft on crime, let them proclaim it on every election leaflet."
When opposition parties made the call for mandatory sentences, the Scottish government said harsh penalties were already in place.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "We've seen jail terms for knife-carrying increase by a third, and I have made it clear that those who use a knife should expect to go to jail."
At 13:57:23 in SportDavid Gilbert admitted he had been outclassed after his World Championship campaign came to an abrupt end with a 10-4 defeat by last year's Crucible runner-up Barry Hawkins.
At 13:56:11 in EnglandA baby squirrel was found "nesting" in the thick woollen fleece of a sheep in Suffolk, its owner said.
At 13:52:21 in SportThe British Horseracing Authority will assess Chelmsford City Racecourse's application to host fixtures in 2015.
At 13:46:17 in EnglandA 25-year-old man found dead at a house in Lincoln has been named.
At 13:42:47 in ScotlandPlans to reduce the number of payday lenders on the high street are being discussed at Scotland's first payday lending summit in Glasgow.
At 13:41:40 in SportJersey's Team Jets could have an easier path to promotion to English Netball's Premiership Three after the withdrawal of one of their play-off opponents.
At 13:39:52 in WorldAuthorities in Australia are examining material washed ashore to determine if it is related to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
At 13:36:05 in SportLast year's runner-up Barry Hawkins beat David Gilbert 10-4 to reach the second round of the World Championships at the Crucible.
At 13:35:44 in EnglandVisitors to part of the East Yorkshire coast have been warned to look out for live ammunition after the army bomb squad had to carry out a controlled explosion on a beach.
At 13:35:02 in BusinessBoeing's total revenues rose 8% to $20.5bn (£12.2bn) in the first quarter, driven by an increase in commercial aircraft deliveries.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Knife crime plans in Scotland 'may cost £80m' [Online] (Updated 14th Mar 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/44241/Knife-crime-plans-in-Scotland-may-cost-80m [Accessed 23rd Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
Eight major renewable energy projects, expected to support 8,500 jobs, have been given government approval.
The Hull Truck theatre has received £400,000 in emergency grants to help it out of financial crisis.
Plans to reduce the number of payday lenders on the high street are being discussed at Scotland's first payday lending summit in Glasgow.
The director of care at a children's hospice has been cleared of professional misconduct over the way she dealt with a dying teenager.
Work is to start on transforming a derelict lido which has been closed for more than 20 years into a visitor attraction.