Labour’s policy of ‘automatic jail for knife carriers’ appeared to be in chaos after the party admitted to Holyrood Justice Committee witnesses that judges will still have the final discretion on sentencing.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell has written to Labour’s Justice spokesperson Richard Baker calling on him to explain why his party are still misleading voters over their knife crime policy.
The SNP also allege that Labour have failed to produce any evidence that mandatory sentences would reduce the level of knife crime and most seriously – that they have been running TWO versions of their knife crime petition with each calling for different outcomes.
Mr Maxwell, who as a member of the Justice Committee heard evidence this week on Labour’s proposed amendments, commented:
“Labour are claiming that, under their plans, everyone caught carrying a knife will go to jail and that this will reduce knife crime in Scotland. On both ounts, they are misleading voters.
“They use the slogan ‘carry a knife – go to jail’ and then concede that it will still be up to judges to impose sentences? That doesn’t sound very mandatory to me. What would the exceptions be? Labour need to make this clear.
“Just this week the Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police told the justice committee that it was ‘misleading’ to try and persuade people that mandatory sentences will have a big impact.
“His counterpart from Strathclyde Police, the head of the Violence Reduction Unit and Victim Support Scotland are equally sceptical.
“What Richard Baker know that these experts don’t?
“He can’t produce any evidence that mandatory sentences would actually reduce knife crime.
“The priority must be catching as many knife carriers as possible – that’s why the SNP has invested in record numbers of police officers. And that’s why the number of knife crime offences has fallen by over 11% since the SNP took office.
Lib Dem justice spokesman Robert Brown said that “prisons can often be, in effect, colleges of crime where prisoners come out more likely to re-offend than when they went in.”
Mr Brown added:
“Efforts by populist Labour and Tory politicians to outbid each other in sending more and more people to jail are short-sighted and just do not work.
“Carrying a knife is a serious crime and those caught must expect to face the consequences.
“All the evidence suggests that effective policing and the certainty of being caught and arrested does make a difference.
“However, sentencing decisions must be made by the courts.”