Knife amnesty is launched
A NATIONWIDE knife amnesty to end the carnage on our streets was launched yesterday.
The five-week initiative, running throughout the UK, is aimed at repeating the success of Operation Blade, which took thousands of weapons off the streets of Strathclyde in 1993.
Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson yesterday vowed it would be just one of many measures to battle knife crime in Scotland.
Victims of the scourge have included policeman Lewis Fulton, knifed through the heart in Glasgow in 1994 as he tried to arrest a teenage schizophrenic.
Knives are becoming an increasing menace in the hands of young girls, too.
Kirsty Nisbet, from Edinburgh, was just 14 when she needed 89 stitches after a former friend slashed her with a craft knife in 2002, leaving her scarred for life.
Jamieson added: "We have seen the impact of Operation Blade and I want to see that replicated throughout Scotland."
She appealed to those who carry knives: "Use the amnesty as an opportunity to put this behind you and stop more young people being killed or maimed."
Launching the amnesty for England and Wales, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: "Every weapon handed in will be a weapon that cannot be used in crime.
"Anyone with a knife or other weapon that might be used to cause fear and distress on our streets should take this chance to get rid of it."
During the amnesty, which will run from May 24 to June 30, there will be disposal points for weapons at police stations and other locations around Scotland.
Knives will be forensically checked to see if they have been used in any crime but it is expected that the vast majority will just be destroyed.
Lord Advocate Colin Boyd will retain his right to prosecute if there is evidence a knife has been used in an offence.
Boyd said yesterday the Crown Office were also carrying out a major review of their policy on knife crime.
He added: "They will give careful consideration to prosecuting persistent and violent offenders, in a court empowered to send them to prison for the maximum period allowed by law."
The Executive's plans to double the maximum sentence for carrying a blade to four years have been criticised as not doing enough.
Critics point out most offences are dealt with as summary crimes - which attract a much lower sentence.
Scottish Tories welcomed the amnesty.
Justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: "At a time when knife crime is reaching almost epidemic proportions, an amnesty to get these lethal weapons off the streets is clearly a step in the right direction."
SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill said: "We welcome this amnesty as part of the efforts to tackle this problem.
"It must be made clear after the amnesty is over, there will be no excuses for carrying a knife or a sword in Scotland."