Only one criminal given maximum jail term for carrying knife, figures reveal

Scotland’s courts have only imposed one maximum five-year jail sentence for knife carrying in a year, new figures show.

While there were 917 convictions for the offence of “having in a public place an article with a blade or point” in 2016-17, there was only one case where this was the main offence that resulted in the longest possible prison term.

The figures – which did not include cases where a knife was used in a robbery, assault or killing – were obtained by the Scottish Conservatives under freedom of information legislation.

They prompted the Tories to accuse SNP ministers of “hot air” on the issue of knife crime.

The Scottish Government increased the maximum prison sentence in 2016.

Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “The maximum sentence for carrying a knife was increased to five years to tackle the increasing issue of knife crime.

“If these figures are anything to go by, this tactic has wholly failed.”

He added: “For only one criminal to have received the maximum sentence shows just how toothless the sentence guideline is.

“The SNP talks a good game on knife crime but it is clearly nothing more than hot air.”

The figures showed the average jail sentence imposed for carrying a knife increased in 2016-17, going from 377 days in custody the previous year to 421 days behind bars.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said all parties at Holyrood had backed the increase in sentences for knife crime when it was introduced, saying this ensured courts have the powers needed “in the most serious knife possession cases”.

She added: “Sentencing in each case, however, remains a matter for the independent court, where they have all the facts and circumstances before them.

“The twin-track approach of pioneering violence-prevention programmes, coupled with enhanced penalties and tough enforcement has helped deliver huge falls in violent crime over the last decade.

“We will continue to invest in and pursue our strategy to help keep crime down and communities safe.

“This data relates to sentences where the knife possession charge was the most serious, so would not include the full sentences where a knife was used to rob or assault another person.

“The average length of custodial sentences for knife possession offences has increased by 85% since 2007-08.”