Knife crime debate to be catalyst for change

15.01.2009

A knife crime debate to be held at the Scottish Parliament on Friday 23 January aims to generate fresh thinking and act as a catalyst for positive direct action.

Frank McAveety MSP, Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee and the petitioner John Muir have both stated their desire for the debate to provide a real opportunity for people’s voices to be heard, to create fresh thinking on how to tackle knife culture and map out where we go from here.

The debate has been organised by the committee in response to the petition by John Muir whose son was stabbed to death in 2007. The committee bring together for the first time a wide cross-section of groups and individuals affected by knife crime such as the victims, young people, police, the legal profession, community groups and medical staff.

The debate will be held in the Parliament’s debating chamber with around 65 participants. The public will be able to observe the event from the public gallery. It will be chaired by Trish Godman MSP, deputy presiding officer and BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor will act as facilitator.

Committee Convener Frank McAveety MSP said:
“The committee is bringing people together to provide a unique opportunity and forum for them to raise issues, ask questions, seek answers and challenge opinions. We recognise the work going forward by government, the police and in local communities but there are many questions that still need answers. For example, how do the police think we should tackle the knife culture that exists in too many communities? What is the impact on our hospital A&E staff in treating knife victims?”

He added:
“I also want to hear from the young people coming along to try and understand what it is like being faced with the reality of knife carrying. What makes a person put a blade in their pocket with no more thought than their mobile phone when they leave the house? What makes them then pull that knife on someone?”

“This problem has been with us for too long and we need a clear map to take us all forward. Changing the culture of knife carrying is a big issue we must all tackle. However, there will be other small practical measures that can be taken to prevent even one more knife crime victim. We owe that to the families and friends of victims like John Muir.”

Petitioner John Muir:
“This forum is one of the most comprehensive steps taken by any body to overcome the heinous knife culture that has become a major blight to the people of Scotland. Over the years there have been many attempts at ridding knife crime from our streets. Some have worked in part but most have failed. We need fresh thinking and I hope that those attending this debate will bring that.”

“I look forward to hearing what the police, the young people, the medics, the other victims and many others have to say. We as a family are the human face of this tragedy and we believe that this debate could be the catalyst for positive, direct action."

Participants
Among the individuals and organisations participating are:

  • Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Community Safety, Scottish Government
  • Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan, Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland
  • Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, Violence Reduction Unit
  • Victim Support Scotland
  • Medics Against Violence
  • Mothers Against Murder And Aggression
  • Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Richard McShane, Bartara Association
  • Three young people from Urban Fox programme

Outcomes
One outcome of the debate will be a report which the committee will submit to the Scottish Government for consideration and to the Parliament’s Justice Committee for it to reflect on when it scrutinises the forthcoming Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill.

Background
Petition PE1171 was lodged by Mr John Muir on 26 June 2008. It calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce mandatory sentencing for persons found carrying knives or other dangerous weapons in public. The Committee gave initial consideration to the petition at its meeting on 9 September 2008.