SNP slams Labour for misleading voters
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell has today written to Labour's Justice spokesperson Richard Baker calling on him to explain why his party are misleading voters with their supposed knife crime policy. Despite publicly proclaiming 'carry a knife - go to jail' they have admitted to Justice Committee witnesses that judges will still have the final discretion on sentencing.
They have also failed to produce any evidence that mandatory sentences would reduce the level of knife crime, and - perhaps most seriously - have been running TWO versions of their petition which call 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 counts, 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.
"In reality it is Labour who are soft on knife crime. They continually claim that they doubled the maximum sentence for carrying a knife - but this was only down to the amendments that I lodged to the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice Bill that made this available in all cases.
"They attack the SNP's record in Scotland whilst south of the border where Labour is in power the proportion of those locked up for knife crime is far, far lower.