THE Greenock Telegraph was used by a sheriff to hammer home a 'lesson' to a knife offender on the seriousness of carrying blades.

Daniel Harkins, 20, narrowly avoided a year in jail after his explanation to police that he had a fish cutter for 'protection' was deleted following negotiations over his guilty plea.

But lawman Derek Hamilton still imposed an electronic tagging curfew to keep Harkins 'out of circulation' and told him he must complete 130 hours of unpaid work.

Turning to the Telegraph — whose 'Stop Knives Save Lives' campaign won a major newspaper award in 2010 — the sheriff highlighted the scourge of violent blade crime.

Sheriff Hamilton told Harkins: "If you read the Telegraph's reports you will find that most people who carry knives end up in custody, even if they are first offenders.

"People who carry knives have no place on the streets of Greenock.

"Had your reply to the police been kept in, and available to me, you would have likely got a minimum of 12 months in custody.

"Anyone who takes a knife out for their own protection means that they are prepared to use it."

Harkins — who had his lockback knife secreted between his buttocks — told the court through lawyer David Tod that he uses it for his work in the fishing industry.

However, it emerged during his sentencing hearing that he had originally declared to police that he had been carrying it with him for his 'safety'.

Sheriff Hamilton said: "You have obviously had good legal advice here and on your statement to the police I can't sentence you.

"You've had good, professional legal advice and that has perhaps kept you out of custody."

Prosecutor Emma Jeffrey told the court how police stopped a car that Harkins was a passenger in at around 1am on December 9 last year at Inverkip Road.

The fiscal depute said: "Officers had cause to detain the accused and convey him to Greenock police office for a full search.

"At this point he stated that he had a knife between his buttocks."

Harkins, of Finnart Street, Greenock, had also been charged with possession of cannabis resin but his not guilty plea to this was accepted by the Crown following the discussions with solicitor Mr Tod.

Mr Tod said that the knife matter had caused his client and his parents — who were present in court — 'some considerable concern'.

Sheriff Hamilton responded: "It should."

He told Harkins that he was a 'very fortunate individual' to be escaping a custodial sentence.

The sheriff said: "I accept that this was a knife used for your work.

"I will refrain from imposing custody but I am going to restrict your liberty."

Harkins must stay within his home each Friday from 8pm to 7am, Saturday's from 7pm to 7am and Sunday from 7pm to 5am for four months.

Sheriff Hamilton said: "Effectively, you will be out of circulation for four months at night.

"This may seem a harsh sentence to you but let this be a lesson to you."

The unpaid work and electronic tagging orders have been imposed as an alternative to prison.