Police Scotland issue 11,000 'soft touch' warnings

Police Scotland has issued 11,000 warnings under a scheme introduced for the first time earlier this year to tackle minor offences.

Police have issued 11,000 warnings since January. Picture: John Devlin
Police have issued 11,000 warnings since January. Picture: John Devlin

Since January, some low-level crime has been dealt with by Recorded Police Warnings without officers having to submit a report to the procurator fiscal.

Critics have called the warnings - which are issued for crimes such as shoplifting and cannabis use - a “soft touch”.

Appearing before the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins said: “So far there’s been about 11,000 of them issued. Rather than caution and charge someone or give them a fixed penalty, they’re dealt with by a Recorded Police Warning.

“If they receive two Warnings within a set time for the same offence they are then charged. That will reduce the number of fixed penalties that will be issued in the future.”

Earlier MSPs had heard that the policy of handing out fixed penalty notices to tackle crime is “seriously flawed”.

Sam McEwan, a justice of the peace in Inverclyde, said there was no point issuing fines to those with drug and alcohol addictions who are unable to pay.

He cited the example of an alcoholic who was given £475 worth of fixed penalty notices in just half an hour for drinking in the street.

Mr McEwan said: “It is a seriously flawed notion that justice is served by fixed penalties.

“If you don’t have any money, then fining you £100 is not going to do you any good.”

Commenting on the issue later, Eric McQueen, chief executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, said: “The recovery levels are very high – for the direct measures from the police and the Crown, the recovery rate is over 80 per cent and in relation to any fines issued by the JP or sheriff court it’s closer to 100 per cent.”