Two years on from Bailey Gwynne’s death, half of Scots councils still failing to track school knife incidents

Flowers left outside Cults Academy in Aberdeen where 16 year old Bailey Gwynne died after being stabbed. (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Flowers left outside Cults Academy in Aberdeen where 16 year old Bailey Gwynne died after being stabbed. (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

HALF of Scotland’s local education authorities are failing to gather information about the number of knife incidents in their schools – two years after the fatal stabbing of pupil Bailey Gwynne.

The Sunday Post can reveal that there have been 79 knife incidents in Scottish schools since Bailey’s death – including an alarming 20 in just nine months in Aberdeen, where the teenager went to school.

But the actual total will be much higher, as half of the country’s 32 councils were unable to supply figures – because they do not collate them.

Last night, campaigner John Muir described the situation as “shocking”.

Mr Muir, who founded the Inverclyde Anti-Knife Group after his son Damian was stabbed to death in Greenock in 2007, said: “If someone is caught carrying a knife at school, it’s a red flag – their name should be going on a register. So how can so many councils say it’s too difficult to find out how many have been caught?

“There is still far too much pussy-footing around when it comes to knife crime.

“A person being struck down with a knife, like Bailey Gwynne was, is one of the most terrible things a family can endure.”

An independent report on Bailey’s death compiled for Aberdeen City Council recommended that all knife incidents in schools should be reported to police and properly recorded by the authority.

The Scottish Government’s new guidelines on reducing school exclusions also call for the proper recording of incidents involving weapons.

But 15 councils were unable to provide figures, with most saying they would have to check every pupil’s record individually to get the information and the process would be too costly.

Campaigner David Stark said parents should always be informed of knife incidents at their child’s school.

Bailey Gwynne. (Police Scotland/PA Wire)

Mr Stark, whose 25-year-old brother Sean was murdered by a knife-wielding thug outside a pub in Lochgelly, Fife, in 2009, said the number of youngsters caught with blades in Scotland in the last two years was concerning.

“It shouldn’t be like this,” he said. “Why are so many young people bringing a knife to school? My brother’s oldest daughter is due to go to high school next year and this really worries me.

“I’m surprised to hear some councils saying they don’t know how many have had knives.

“Surely every school should know without having to search through every pupil’s record?

“If someone at my kid’s school had a knife, I’d certainly want to know.

“If they’re not keeping track, how else can they check if things are getting better?”

An inquiry ruled 16-year-old Cults Academy pupil Bailey’s death was “potentially avoidable” if teachers had been told that a pupil carried weapons.

His killer, who cannot be named, was later jailed for nine years after being found guilty of culpable homicide.

A five-day trial at the High Court in Aberdeen heard the incident involved an argument over a biscuit.

A friend of the boy who killed Bailey told the court he had shown him a knife and knuckledusters on several occasions from the end of 2014.

Police Scotland said last year that there had been 15 knife incidents at Aberdeen schools between October 28, 2015, when Bailey died, and October 2016, taking the total number in the last 22 months to 35.

In Dundee, eight incidents have been recorded since the start of the 2015-16 school year, as well as a further seven in both East Ayrshire and Glasgow, and six in Shetland.

Angus and Clackmannanshire recorded five each, Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde two each, and Stirling and Renfrewshire one apiece.

Edinburgh, Dumfries and Galloway, Falkirk, Highland, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and West Lothian councils said they could not provide the information because it was not held centrally and it would require searching each individual pupil’s record, which would be too time-consuming.

Aberdeenshire, Midlothian and East Lothian councils said they could not provide figures because incidents were only recorded when they resulted in an exclusion.

Fife and Western Isles authorities failed to respond to requests for information.

The new figures are revealed as the Ben Kinsella Trust, a youth charity, warns young people are becoming “increasingly desensitised” by knife crime, and consider the fatal consequence to be an inevitability of life.

North East MSP and the Conservatives’ justice spokesman, Liam Kerr, said the national figures were “deeply alarming”.

He said: “Nobody wants to see a repeat of the horrific events at Cults Academy.

“The statistics from Aberdeen City Council will horrify parents. If there have been 20 incidents in a nine-month period then that raises some very serious questions.

“I would be interested to know if this is just a product of a more strict approach in schools since the Bailey Gwynne tragedy or if we are facing an upward trend of pupils carrying weapons.”

North East Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles added: “There is never any excuse for carrying a knife in school or elsewhere.

“Aberdeen City Council and their partners need to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to stamp it out.”

A spokesman for Aberdeen City Council said the recommendations from the report into Bailey Gwynne’s death had all been implemented.

He added: “Support and training was given to head teachers on reporting knife incidents in partnership with Police Scotland.

“In September 2016 a citywide meeting was held and the weapons protocol established.”

Meanwhile, a stained glass window commemorating Bailey has been installed at his school.

The colourful artwork was unveiled during a private event, which was attended by his family.

The panel includes references to some of Bailey’s favourite places, including Paris, Barcelona and Caithness, as well as the Gwynne family dogs, the Scouts, his family and friends and his hopes for a career in the Marines.