HC Deb 10 November 1976 vol 919 cc407-8
43. Mr. Monro

asked the Lord Advocate how many prosecutions there have been relating to the possession of offensive weapons in the last 12 months.

The Lord Advocate

Between 1st November 1975 and 31st October 1976 there were 1,557 prosecutions for offences under Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953, which makes it an offence for a person to have in his possession an offensive weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. In addition, prosecutions have been brought for offences involving the use of offensive weapons, as, for example, in assaults and breaches of the peace, but separate statistics are not available for these.

Mr. Monro

I thank the Minister for his reply. Since it is possible at the drop of a hat for the police to search a person for drugs or for protected birds' eggs, should it not be made easier for a policeman to search for offensive weapons than it is at the present time?

The Lord Advocate

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. In fact, a recommendation that an experiment in this direction should be tried for a period of five years was made in the Scottish Council on Crime's report in 1975. It is only fair to add that the figures for convictions over the past three years indicate a decline in the number of convictions for offences under Section 1 of the 1953 Act.

Mr. Buchan

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will not follow the facile analogy in respect of searching for birds' eggs and so on. This matter was closely examined over a period of years, and most of the arguments on the social aspects came down against the proposition that we should open this up to search for offensive weapons.

The Lord Advocate

I agree with my hon. Friend that there are two sides to the question, but I do not agree with the way he put his side of it.