The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Let off: 225 thugs a month Let down: Victims (again)

- By Georgia Edkins

RECORD numbers of thugs and drug users are being let off with ‘soft-touch’ on-the-spot police warnings instead of being prosecuted.

Critics say the written notices are akin to a mere slap on the wrist and mean that violent offenders are dodging punishment.

A total of 225 recorded police warnings (RPWs) are being handed out for assault every month, Police Scotland figures show. In each case, a physical attack had taken place.

Meanwhile, 587 RPWs, which are not officially a finding of guilt, are being handed out each month to

Scots in possession of cannabis. Scottish Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: ‘The SNP’s softtouch justice agenda already means thousands of criminals avoid jail.

‘This looks like violent thugs are avoiding punishment altogether.

‘Victims of these crimes will be devastated their attacker is getting nothing more than a talking-to.

‘In addition, the SNP has completely failed to fund our police properly, despite the record settlement it has received from the UK

Government. It’s no wonder violent crime has risen 40 per cent over the last four years.’

The Scottish Government reiterated its commitment to a softer approach to justice on Thursday.

Budget papers show more than £6.5 million is to be ploughed into community justice services this year, to ‘bolster the effectiven­ess and capacity of community-based interventi­ons, including diversion from prosecutio­n and alternativ­es to custody and remand’.

RPWs – introduced in 2016 – were intended for ‘low-level’ crimes such as minor vandalism, urinating in public, some breaches of the peace, theft and licensing offences.

But in 2018 the police began to issue them for assaults – even though the authoritie­s had said the cautions would not be handed out for any violent offences.

Police say RPWs reduce bureaucrac­y and allow officers to spend more time on the streets.

Data shows officers are increasing­ly handing out RPWs for ‘assault (non-injury)’. In the first quarter of 2019-20, 675 people were given the notices over assaults – up from 30 in the same period of the previous year. Meanwhile, 1,761 people received an RPW for ‘misuse of drugs’ – up from 1,621 in the first quarter of 2018-19.

Superinten­dent Barry Blair, of Police Scotland’s criminal justice services division, said: ‘In July 2018, the common law offence of assault (non-injury) was included in the RPW scheme following consultati­on with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

‘[This] introducti­on has resulted in an increase of warnings for this offence.’

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