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A violent crime every 37 minutes

Louise Gray - September 5th 2007 The Scotsman

One violent crime is committed every 37 minutes in Scotland as the country fails to tackle the "blades menace". The latest statistics show a slight increase in the number of crimes and offences overall last year to more than a million.

But while crimes of dishonesty and housebreaking fell to a record low, non-sexual crimes of violence were up by three per cent to 14,099 - or 39 violent crimes every day.

Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, blamed the "blades menace" and promised a further crackdown on knife culture.

But experts said it would take a generation to turn around "a country where violence is no longer regarded as an inevitable fact of life".

The rise in violent crime was first revealed earlier this summer following an investigation in The Scotsman that found an increase in the number of assault victims attending accident and emergency departments.

This has now been supported in the latest crime statistics which show that violent crime rose by three per cent last year.

The biggest increase was in serious offences such as murder and attempted murder, up by five per cent. Robbery was up by one per cent while other violent crimes remained stable.

The previous two administrations had tried to make headway in tackling Scotland's "booze and blades" culture, including a recent amnesty on knives. But levels have remained the same for the last decade.

"While figures can fluctuate from year to year, the bulletin shows that levels of the most serious crimes have barely changed in 10 years," said Mr MacAskill.

He pledged to maintain efforts to tackle a culture of violence. "There will be no let-up on the blades menace. An increasing emphasis on prevention and changing attitudes to knife carrying and its associated levels of violence will be a priority."

But Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, the head of the Violence Reduction Unit, said: "It simply proves what we have said from the start - any long-term changes in levels of violence in Scotland are not going to happen overnight.

"There is no magic cure for violence. That is why it is imperative that while we tackle violent crime as it happens in the short term, we must also work towards long-term, attitudinal change - and that will take time.

"Early-years education and support is central to this, and vital if we want future generations to grow up in a country where violence is no longer regarded as an inevitable fact of life."

Last year, the total number of crimes rose by 0.4 per cent to 419,257, while less-serious offences rose by one per cent to 605,600.

As well as violent crime, there was an increase in indecent assault, fire-raising, vandalism and handling an offensive weapon.

Bill Aitken, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said the previous government "failed miserably in cutting crime".

He said: "Rape or attempted rape has risen by almost 50 per cent since 1999, drug crimes by almost 40 per cent and total offences by 21 per cent." Margaret Curran, Labour's justice spokeswoman, said the figures were more complex than they appeared, as her party urged victims of crime to report even minor incidents.

In less serious offences, recorded minor assaults were up by eight per cent to 78,167 and breaches of the peace were up by four per cent to 93,387.

OFFENCES COMMITTED ON BAIL RISE 16%
Breaches of bail rose by almost a third last year as courts allowed more people accused of crimes back into the community. The latest statistics showed a 16 per cent increase in "crimes against justice", largely because of a 31 per cent rise in bail offences.

In the last five years there has been a 42 per cent increase in the number of bail orders given out to 56,913 in 2005/06.

However lawyers and opposition politicians warned the increase showed a worrying rise in the number of accused able to avoid custody and reoffend.

Paul McBride QC said the human rights act has led to the increase in the number of bail orders.

He said: "If any message is taken from these figures it is that district and sheriff courts have to be tougher on people who have broken bail and simply put them in custody."

Bill Aitken, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said a significant number of those who breach bail go on to reoffend.

From a total of 176,600 offences with a charge proved in 2005-6, "bail aggravator" was recorded against 25,600 -14 per cent - indicating these offences were committed while the offender was on bail.


JAIL FOR MURDER ATTEMPT ON YOUNG POLE

A professional gambler who inflicted horrific injuries on a Polish builder was yesterday jailed for seven and a half years.

Sentencing Craig Jamieson, 27, at the High Court in Edinburgh, judge Lord Clarke told him: "But for the skill of the medical profession you may have been facing a charge of murder."

An earlier trial heard Jamieson attacked Patryk Mnich, punched and stamped on him. Mr Mnich, 22, was left badly injured after the assault and is still undergoing rehabilitation to help him cope with everyday tasks. At one stage doctors feared he would never regain consciousness.

Lord Clarke told Jamieson at the High court in Edinburgh : "Your victim is a young man who, as a result of your violence towards him, faces a lifetime of very serious disablement. He no doubt came to this country to make a better life for himself and, indeed, to contribute to this country. You shattered any hope of that."

Jamieson, of Pilrig Heights, Edinburgh, had denied assaulting Mr Mnich to his severe injury and permanent impairment and attempting to murder him in the street.

But a jury convicted him of the offence by a majority verdict. They deleted an allegation that the offence was racially aggravated.

See also:
Scotland most dangerous country - UN report
Scottish murder rates
Scotland could need seven more jails

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