Crime does pay as police get to keep money seized from gangs

POLICE will be allowed to keep a share of the money seized from organised crime gangs under a scheme set to be unveiled within weeks.

The Scotsman has learned that forces will be given a major cash incentive to seize more money and assets from drug dealers and other crime barons.

The move has already been given the green light from justice secretary Kenny Mac-Askill and final discussions are taking place with an announcement unveiling the scheme expected within weeks.

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Chief constables in Scotland have been pressing the Scottish Government to introduce the "incentivisation" scheme, which officers say will allow them to plough money back into the fight against organised crime.

In England and Wales, about 20 per cent of seized cash is ploughed back into police budgets. For example, the Metropolitan Police were allowed to keep 4 million in 2007-8 under the Home Office's Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme.

But since the introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Act in Scotland in 2003, more than 25 million has gone straight to Holyrood.

Mr MacAskill yesterday told The Scotsman he was "committed to the principle" of a similar incentivisation scheme for police in Scotland.

"I have confirmed that to Acpos (the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland). It is just the detail that has to be worked out.

"Officials are working with police representatives to discuss that."

The main issues to be ironed out are the percentage of money and assets seized that will be handed to the police and the rules governing which authority will be entitled to what.

"If a car in transit is stopped by the SCDEA (Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency) in Dumfries and Galloway, but the drugs are destined for Glasgow, we have to decide who should be allowed to keep the money – the SCDEA, Dumfries and Galloway or Strathclyde," added Mr MacAskill.

He said it would be up to police how they spend the money.

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"In the world in which we live, we don't simply want to arrest the drug dealer. We want to get the Rolex watches, the BMW with darkened windows. We want to encourage the police to strip the dealers of all their assets," added Mr MacAskill.

Gordon Meldrum, director general of the SCDEA, said he was "all for" police being allowed to reinvest a share of the proceeds of crime.

"It will allow us to pump-prime the process. We will have the money to invest in the financial investigators and other experts we need to pursue the people behind organised crime. That will enable us to seize more assets and bring in more money."

He said police should be seeking to seize the assets of neighbourhood drug dealers "with the same aggression that the agency goes after criminals".

Senior officers will be keen to ensure the extra revenue raised from the scheme will not be used simply to soften the blow of feared budget cuts in future years, as public spending tightens during the recession.

Since the SNP was elected two years ago, proceeds from crime totalling several million pounds have been used to fund an array of youth projects covering sport, arts and culture under the Scottish Government's CashBack for Communities scheme.


KENNY MacAskill yesterday confirmed the Scottish Government has no plans to introduce a single national police force.

The justice secretary made the statement during an address at the conference in Peebles of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents the country's 16,000 rank-and-file officers.

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Mr MacAskill told officers there would be no changes to the current eight force structure in Scotland.

He said: "Let me take this opportunity to make it clear that our vision for the future does not involve a single police force."

SPF chairman Norrie Flowers told the conference performance reports suggested no failures in the current system. Their comments follow a recent call for a single police force from Paddy Tomkins, who retired as chief inspector of constabulary last week.