West Dunbartonshire pupils snared with weapons in schools - Article from the Clydebank Post published 23rd March 2018
EIGHT West Dunbartonshire pupils – four of them as young as 12 years old – have been caught carrying lethal weapons within school in the past four years.
In a special exclusive investigation by the Post, we can reveal that the oldest of the eight armed kids was just 14 years of age.
The figures show that in the past four years schoolchildren in the area have armed themselves at school with a steak knife, a belt, a metal bar, two pen knives, scissors, another type of knife and an unnamed weapon.
The insights come just a year after Daniel Stroud was jailed for the culpable homicide of 16-year-old schoolboy Bailey Gwynne at Cults Academy in Aberdeenshire.
The fifth-year pupils squared up in March 2016 when someone called Bailey’s mum “fat” and, as they wrestled, Stroud pulled a knife and plunged it into Bailey’s heart.
MSP Gil Paterson called for adults to set a good example of not carrying weapons and for parents to talk to their children about the dangers.
Five of the eight offences in West Dunbartonshire happened in 2016, according to the details released under Freedom of Information legislation. Individual schools were not named as it wasn’t in the public interest, said police.
A police spokesman said: “Keeping people safe is at the heart of everything that we do but this is entirely reliant on building good relationships with the communities we serve and encouraging schools to make us aware of the issues in their area.
“As such, a higher number of incidents at one school cannot necessarily be taken to mean that the location is any way less safe than that of another school.
“It could simply mean that the management team and staff at one location are far more willing to engage with the police to attempt to deal with criminal behaviour and other matters of concern whereas at other schools, the same issues may be present but the staff are less inclined for whatever reason to contact the police.
“What we simply cannot afford to do is discourage people from reporting incidents to the police for fear that the resulting information will be used to create a negative impression of that location or a ‘league table’ of sorts offering up comparisons.”
Police Scotland told the Post that four 12-year-olds, three 13-year-olds and one child aged 14, were all caught in the past four years carrying weapons within their school. Their figures were from 2014 until February 16, 2018.
From April 1, 2017, a set of new codes was introduced to record cases of using an offensive weapon in a public setting to commit other criminal activity.
A Police Scotland spokesman revealed that four of the offenders were dealt with by “early and effective intervention” and three were reported to the Children’s Panel.
The other as a result of joint consultation, merited the attention of the procurator fiscal in Dumbarton, as well as the Children’s Panel.
In 2014, 2015, and 2017 there was just one offender in each of those three years, with the other five offences all happening in 2016.
A spokesman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: “We work closely with police to protect and educate pupils about the potentially devastating consequences of carrying a knife, and have dedicated youth engagement officers working across our secondary schools.
“We have over 12,000 pupils in our schools and while the number of reports is low by comparison, we view any incident as serious and will take appropriate action against anyone who brings a weapon into any of our schools.”
“We have a policy and guidance for head teachers which is implemented across our schools and was prepared in conjunction with Police Scotland.”
Gil Paterson MSP told the Post: “Children copy older generations so there is a responsibility on older generations to set a positive example when it comes to knife carrying.
“It is my view that the only way to get to zero tolerance is through giving the police the power to stop and search those they suspect of carrying weapons. We must be vigilant otherwise knife crime will start to creep up.
"In saying that, it is my experience that teaching staff and community police are doing a very good job in terms of educating young people about the grave consequences that can stem from that initial decision to pick up a knife and conceal it, and I would encourage them to carry-on doing so.
“Parents too must be vigilant and speak to their children about the dangers of knife crime.”