According to the Herrod, yesterday:
‘Fears are mounting that only those accused of the most serious crimes will be held in police custody after being charged, under a radical overhaul of the justice system. Currently, officers have the option to bail suspects to appear in court at a later date, but it is often only used for first offenders charged with minor crimes such as traffic offences. Now the Scottish Government has extended this as part of the 2016 Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act – which comes into force on Thursday – to allow the police to “take every precaution to ensure a person is not unreasonably or unnecessarily held in police custody”.
Now, just where are those mounting fears being expressed and by just whom? The Herrod is unable to tell us despite its headline. I’m guessing they’ve been made up by the Herrod or its feeders from the opposition parties. So, there are no mounting fears really.
Further, even if the Herrod could tell us where they are, would they be justifiable? In Scandinavia they’ve been imprisoning only the most violent criminals for decades now. They report no increased threat to the general public as a result and have lower re-offending rates:
Scotland has experienced a dramatic fall in violent crime in the last decade. See:
Of 35 children and teenagers killed with knives in Britain in 2017, not one was in Scotland, yet in 2005, the UN called Scotland the most violent country in the developed world.
Scotland’s homicide rate falls by 47%, is lower than the rate for England and Wales and has fallen faster than many other countries in the ten years of SNP government
So, it’s maybe time to try the Scandinavian approach. It’s also time, of course, for the Herrod to be a bit more mature and stop trying to scare the old folk who might still be up for voting No next time.
I’m a retired procurator fiscal. For avoidance of doubt the paragraph quoted is not to do with sentencing (although Scotland could learn a lot from other jurisdictions about alternatives to custodial sentences). This is about police discretion to hold alleged offenders in custody or to bail them to go to court on a subsequent date or to release them for summons to court.
Things may have changed since I retired regarding police discretion on this matter, but I doubt if they have changed greatly. There is an emphasis, in the Lord Advocate’s instructions about custody of prisoners, on public safety. In my experience the police err on the side of caution. The section reported above in quotes which says that the police should “take every precaution to ensure a person is not unreasonably or unnecessarily held in police custody” is not only compliant with human rights legislation, but is also common sense. Would we really be wanting the police to hold people in custody “unreasonably or unnecessarily”?
LikeLiked by 2 people
Thanks for the clarification David.
One possible source for the article might be a comment made by a senior police officer at a meeting I attended, 7/8 years ago. The meeting was to discuss ways of promoting cycling and walking and for one of the districts of Glasgow with a high index of multiple deprivation some infrastructure was to be – and was – installed.
The area was one of low car ownership. It was also relatively compact and had reasonable bus and rail services to the City Centre. Historically, it was an area which had high levels of crime, particularly against the person and frequently occurring between ‘territorial’ gangs.
The police reported that at the time of the meeting to which I refer, that the level of crime in the area was massively reduced compared to previous years and was not greatly different from that of the city as a whole. However, local residents still believed that crime levels were much higher and were reluctant to walk or cycle because they would have to cross the territories of different gangs and so would likely be attacked or chased. Many of these people were over 40 years of age. The police reported that the types of gangs like Maryhill Fleet, Calton Tongs, Billy Boys, Norman Conks, etc of previous generations no longer existed and there was little evidence of gang territories still being in existence.
So the reluctance was based on history (perhaps from their own adolescence) and not on reality. There was a fear of violence, but the violence was not really there. As a result, this area of Glasgow had very high car ownership aspiration because cars would enable them to traverse ‘territories’ quickly!
Crime is generally falling across much of the world (where there is peace), but most people still believe crime is high – probably because of the media emphasis on crime? A number of surveys have indicated that ‘fear of crime’ is much higher than the incidence of crime. So, I suspect that the Herald is probably using this fairly worldwide feeling to imply that it is SPECIFIC to Scotland – we are usually the worst, in their narrative – and that this allows them to build an SNP baaaaaad tale based on the sensible policy on custody.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Alasdair, were you referring to Cessnock?
Clydebuilt, No. It was the Bridgeton/Dalmarnock area.
Thanks Alisdair, in Cessnock there’s council bikes for hire plus some green Tarmac. . . But it’s a bit of a joke . . . Starts and stops at traffic lights
Thanks, interesting thoughts.
I was a police officer in Aberdeen from 2007 to 2012 & we routinely bailed accused if we possibly could. Not if they had committed a serious act of violence (especially within the domestic context, where the threshold was very low indeed), not if there was a risk of them reoffending & not if there was a risk of them absconding. The first consideration was always the safety of the public, then the rights of the accused & third whether could squeeze them into the inadequate cells we had at the time. Maybe things have changed since Police Scotland came into being but that was how it was back then.
Hi John – Are you by any chance free-lancing for the beeb on the topic of knife crime + violence reduction (Scotland/England comparisons)? – ‘Cos if you aren’t free-lancing then someone in the beeb editorial set-up has been reading your blog very assiduously! There are 3 articles that interlock on this topic dated 24/01/18 and 25/01/18. The info provided appears pretty neutral and balanced in all 3 articles. Not much mention of the improved figures appearing during the period of an SNP Scottish Govt. – but the dates are there – and Michael Mathieson is given a short quote in one of the articles.
HOWEVER, the placement of the articles and links is passing strange. (Please bear with me for a wee bit longer).
A link to this particular article appears on the Scotland main page – and also the Glasgow and West page. At the foot of this article there are no links to the other 2 articles! (The article on the Scotland page you will notice has been prepared by The Victoria Derbyshire show – not beeb Jockland) I’ve included a couple of short para snippets and the title and link below:
‘I was stabbed nine times and had a hatchet in my head’
By Louis Lee RayBBC Victoria Derbyshire programme
• 24 January 2018
‘I was stabbed nine times and had a hatchet in my head’ By Louis Lee Ray BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 24 January 2018
Knife crime in England and Wales is rising, but an initiative in Scotland has seen a significant fall in the number of stabbings. Does the rest of the UK need to rethink the way it deals with knife crime?
Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, says: “It’s not just more police officers or increasing sentencing powers for our sentences within the courts… it’s about working with organisations and working an approach that helps to reduce the risk of young people from getting involved in the future.
“I certainly see that as an approach that I think could help England in tackling some of these issues.”
A link to the following article appears on the beeb Home (news) page: see below (again including snippet – this article reports specifically on the new figs for England and Wales and no comparison made with Scotland):
Crime statistics: Violent crime and sex offences rising, police figures suggest
The number of violent crimes and sex offences recorded by police in England and Wales has risen sharply over the past year, figures suggest.
Knife crime and robbery also increased in the 12 months to September 2017 compared with the previous year, the Office for National Statistics said.
However – embedded within this article is a link to a further article (see below):
Can Scottish police help stop violent deaths in London?
By Thomas MackintoshBBC News
• 24 January 2018
• Share this with Facebook
The number of teenagers being killed in London has returned to its worst levels since 2008, prompting calls for fresh ways to combat violent crime. Thirteen years ago, Scotland had one of the worst murder rates in western Europe, but a new approach has seen cases almost halve. Could the same approach work in the capital?
This interesting and pretty detailed article appears only on the beeb England page.
Now – considering the interlocking nature of these articles – and, given the specific Scottish interest content included in this substantial article, it seems passing strange to this reader that this article isn’t appearing on the beeb Jockland page – nor even appearing as a ‘link’ at the foot of the ‘other’ knife/violent crime article that does appear on the beeb Jockland site (although authored for the Victoria Derbyshire show).
Very strange editorial decisions going on at beeb Jockland is my only reasonable conclusion.
It is almost as if beeb Jockland are trying to ignore (hide?) the article ‘Can Scottish police help stop violent deaths in London?’ which is authored by Thomas Mackintosh and gives a very positive perspective on the efforts of Police Scotland and the Violence Reduction Unit etc – (and, by extension – on the Scottish Govt also). It is certainly not an article which fits the beeb Jockland preferred narrative of ‘Scotland the rubbish’.
Sorry for the lengthy piece but I felt the complexities of links (and lack thererof) and ‘location’ of articles on different ‘pages’ was relevant to the sphericle’s debate.
Freelance for the Beeb? After they tried to get me sacked in 2014! Thanks for putting these all together.